Trans woman guilty of rape should not be in female prison, Joanna Cherry says

Isla Bryson, formerly known as Adam Graham, was convicted of raping two women <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Isla Bryson, formerly known as Adam Graham, was convicted of raping two women (Image: PA)

A TRANSGENDER woman convicted of rape should not be put in a female prison, Joanna Cherry has said.

The SNP MP’s comments come after Isla Bryson – who was called Adam Graham before beginning their transition – was found guilty of raping one woman in Clydebank in 2016 and another in Drumchapel in 2019, following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

It is understood she is being held at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling while awaiting sentence for the crimes.

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Cherry said she was “very concerned about the safety of women prisoners, with whom a convicted rapist has been placed”, while other politicians have also voiced concerns.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said the decision on where to house transgender prisoners is “made on an individualised basis informed by a multi-disciplinary assessment of both risk and need”.

Transgender women – with or without a gender recognition certificate – are also held in female prisons in England and Wales. In 2021, the High Court south of the Border ruled that keeping them in male prisons would ignore their right to live as their chosen gender.

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Speaking to Times Radio, Cherry (above) said that Bryson’s case would look to many people “like this convicted rapist has gamed the system in order to try and garner sympathy, and to end up in a women’s prison”.

“I think a lot of people will be shocked by that,” she went on. “So I think we should be talking about these cases.

“And women in prison are very vulnerable. Many women in prison have themselves been abused, and have suffered injuries over the years, and so they’re particularly vulnerable. And perhaps some people would say nobody really cares about prisoners.

“But the point about human rights is that they’re universal, and they apply to everyone. So I’m very concerned about the safety of women prisoners, with whom a convicted rapist has been placed.

“And under Scots law, the crime of rape can only be committed by somebody with a penis, and that’s a man. And I think we should call, I think we should call out what’s happened here.”

Interviewer Stig Abell asked: “So, this is a man who’s committed a crime and should be in a male prison?”

To which Cherry replied: “Yes.”

Bryson first appeared in court as Adam Graham in 2019 and was later named in court papers the following year – around the time she decided to transition – as Isla Annie Bryson, formerly known as Adam Graham.

The court heard in agreed evidence that Bryson now identifies as a transgender woman and was previously known by the “dead name” Adam Graham.

Giving evidence last week, she said she knew she was transgender at the age of four but did not make the decision to transition until she was 29, and is currently taking hormones and seeking surgery to complete gender reassignment.

Bryson, who denied the charges against her, told the court “I’ve got my top half,” referring to her breasts.

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Other politicians have also voiced concerns including Labour MSP Jenny Marra, who on Tuesday tweeted: “Cannot quite believe that the Scottish justice system has just put a violent man convicted today of raping two women in women’s prison Cornton Vale housing some of the most vulnerable women in our country.

“Ministers need to explain why and take responsibility.”

Downing Street has also expressed concern about the placement, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson saying on Wednesday: “This is a case in which the courts are yet to hand down a sentence so I’m not going to give anything on the specifics. I’ve seen the reporting and understand the concerns.”

A Scottish Prison Service (SPS) spokesperson said: “Decisions by the SPS as to the most appropriate location to accommodate transgender people are made on an individualised basis, informed by a multi-disciplinary assessment of both risk and need.

“Such decisions seek to protect both the wellbeing and rights of the individual as well as the welfare and rights of others around them, including staff, in order to achieve an outcome that balances risks and promotes the safety of all.

“Where there are any concerns about any risks posed by an individual, either to themselves or others, we retain the ability to keep them separate from the mainstream population until an agreed management plan is in place.”