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Most trans prisoners in Scotland only transitioned after being locked up

isla bryson - Mike Gibbons
isla bryson - Mike Gibbons

More than 60 per cent of transgender prisoners behind bars in Scotland only began transitioning after they were locked up, it has emerged.

Data obtained under Freedom of Information laws state there were, at the start of last month, 19 transgender prisoners in custody, 12 of whom (63 per cent) are recorded as beginning their transition “after their date of admission”.

There were seven trans women - biological men identifying as female - being allowed to serve their sentences in the women’s estate, despite the public and political outcry this year over transgender double rapist Isla Bryson.

Bryson was initially sent to Cornton Vale women’s prison near Stirling to await sentencing after being convicted but was later moved to the male estate.

The 31-year-old only began transitioning from male to female in 2020 after being charged with raping two women. Bryson was known as Adam Graham at the time of the offences.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said in their response that “of those seven, less than five individuals in our care were recorded as beginning their transition after their date of conviction”.

The new revelations have sparked fresh condemnation of the SPS’s controversial transgender prisoner policy and fuelled claims that prisoners transitioning after being sent to prison are gaming the system for their own ends.

Kenny MacAskill, the Alba Party MP and a former SNP justice secretary, said: “This is far from reassuring and confirms that self-ID is being used to avoid going to male prisons by male prisoners who have convictions for very serious crimes.”

The SPS policy is currently being reviewed. A series of measures were brought in on an interim basis following an outcry over the Bryson case.

‘Potential impact on female prisoners’

This means that initially, new prisoners are sent to jails that correspond with their biological sex though they can be moved later following reviews. There were claims that another violent prisoner, Tiffany Scott, was also set to be moved to a women’s jail before the overhaul.

Teresa Medhurst, chief executive of the SPS, said that of the seven trans women in female jails, four had been convicted and three were being held on remand.

She added: “The four sentenced individuals all had an index offence in the non-sexual crimes of violence group. The remanded individuals are alleged to have committed offences in the non-sexual crimes of violence group and the crimes against society group.”

Russell Findlay, the Scottish Tory MSP, said: “That the majority of these prisoners decided to transition only after being sent to prison is of obvious suspicion and concern.

“Following the Isla Bryson and Tiffany Scott scandals, the SNP should deliver their transgender prison review as soon as possible.

“A fundamental consideration must be the motivation of those claiming to be transgender and the potential impact on female prisoners, many of whom are vulnerable and have suffered from male violence.”