Sturgeon defends SNP handling of sex offenders who claim to be women

Thursday 9 February 2023  

By Democrat reporter

Nicola Sturgeon defended her government’s treatment of sexual offenders who claim to be women today under questioning from the Scottish Conservatives.

At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross urged Nicola Sturgeon to intervene to stop female prison officers from being forced to strip-search violent criminals who claim to be trans women.

The SNP leader refused to answer. She also declined to say, for the 13th time, whether she considers double rapist Isla Bryson, formerly Adam Graham, to be a man or woman.

In addition, Nicola Sturgeon refused to say if she considers another dangerous criminal – Tiffany Scott, formerly known as Andrew Burns – to be a woman.

The Scottish Conservative leader raised the words of a former prison officer who told the party that: “All officers dealing with this individual were ordered to refer to Tiffany Scott as ‘she’ and threatened with disciplinary measures if we didn’t.”

This former officer continued that Scott “has used gender recognition as a tool to create as much chaos as possible within the prison system. This is a classic example of devious, dangerous individuals who are exploiting this ridiculous situation.”

Douglas Ross also highlighted newspaper reports quoting female prison officers who said they had ordered to carry out intimate strip searches of Scott.

Reports quote officers who say that “nothing else about Scott has changed physically”. They say their rights have gone “out of the window”.

Nicola Sturgeon also refused to commit to publishing in full the urgent review by the Scottish Prison Service into why and how Bryson was originally sent to a woman’s prison when asked by the opposition leader.

Douglas Ross also expressed his dismay at the heckling by SNP MSPs when he referred to Bryson as a “monster” during the exchanges.

Douglas Ross said: “Given the public interest it’s vital that this report into the Isla Bryson case, which ministers have received, is published in full – yet Nicola Sturgeon refuses to do so. There’s no excuse for this information being withheld from the public.

“Nicola Sturgeon has refused to answer 13 times if Bryson is a man or a woman. The SNP leader has tied herself in knots over this issue, unable to answer a very basic question.

“The First Minister says she doesn’t have enough information to decide if this double rapist is a man. He’s a rapist. What more information does she need?

Douglas Ross asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – “does this mean everybody who claims to be a woman must be considered a woman?”

“She won’t answer honestly because she can’t admit the truth – that her government is going to consider this rapist a woman.

“Nicola Sturgeon has brought in a policy that states everybody who claims to be a woman must be considered a woman – even if they are a dishonest sex offender with a history of violence.

“This is an incredibly important point because it affects how all public bodies treat these criminals when they are released from jail.

“When violent sex offenders like Isla Bryson come out of jail, under Nicola Sturgeon’s policy, they will be treated as women.

“Today Nicola Sturgeon shockingly refused to intervene and stop female prison officers from being forced to strip-search dangerous criminals like Tiffany Scott.

“The SNP leader has lost the trust of the public on this issue and her refusal to protect the rights of female prison officers is a disgrace.

“I was astonished and dismayed when SNP MSPs heckled me for referring to Bryson as a ‘monster’. We’re talking about a double rapist here, not a petty criminal.

“It’s proof of how out of touch they are, that they took offence to a description that most people would consider entirely appropriate.”

However, Nicola Sturgeon, refused to back down. She told the Tory leader: ” First, let me reiterate that the law that this Parliament passed before Christmas, backed by two thirds of MSPs across the chamber, including members of Douglas Ross’s party, is not yet in force.

“It would not have the impact that Douglas Ross says it would, even if it was in force, but it is not in force, so, by definition, it cannot have that impact.”

She added: “The policies of this Government on the issues are guided by the Equality Act and governed by that act, which is a United Kingdom-wide piece of legislation. The rights and protections that trans people have flow from that legislation, and it is important to set that out.

“Those in the prison estate are dealt with depending on the nature of the crime and the nature of the risk posed. Again, it is important, for reasons of public assurance, to underline that as well. That is demonstrated by the two cases that have been cited in the media in recent days and here, again, today.

“When it comes to searches in the prison estate, the Scottish Prison Service has been dealing with transgender prisoners—although they are very small in number—for many years now. It has been doing that safely and effectively and it is experienced in managing those situations. However, it is also the case that the SPS has the ability to use technology to search individuals without the need for officers to conduct any physical search.

“The SPS has a trauma-informed approach to the management of those in custody, and an approach that supports staff as well as the inmates who are in their care.

“The SPS is experienced in these matters and I trust its handling of them. It is important that we continue to ensure that they are handled appropriately, which is what the Government, in association with the Scottish Prison Service, will continue to do.”

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