Watch: ‘Mask slips’ as Nicola Sturgeon calls trans rapist ‘her’

Nicola Sturgeon scratches her mouth - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon scratches her mouth - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon has referred to Isla Bryson as “her” after days of refusing to say whether she regarded the transgender rapist as male or female.

The First Minister referred to “her” being a rapist when fielding questions about the scandal during a press conference, before quickly changing her answer to “the person.”

When she was challenged about the “Freudian slip”, and whether she regarded Bryson as female, the First Minister said: “She regards herself a woman, I regard the individual as a rapist.”

Ms Sturgeon continued to insist that the “relevant factor” in deciding where Bryson is imprisoned is the sex offender’s two rape convictions and not gender.

But the comment raised further questions about how Ms Sturgeon’s controversial plans to allow people to self-identify their legal gender are consistent with Bryson being imprisoned in a male jail.

Court chiefs had wanted to send Bryson to Glasgow’s men-only Barlinnie prison but the rapist was instead initially sent to Cornton Vale women’s jail after being convicted last month.

Scottish Prison Service guidance already states that trans criminals should be sent to the prison that matches the self-identified gender they were living in prior to their conviction.

Bryson was named Adam Graham when committing the rapes and has not legally changed gender. Following a huge public outcry, the rapist was moved to a men’s cell in Edinburgh’s Saughton jail.

The rapist is currently taking hormones and seeking surgery to complete gender reassignment. However, Bryson only started to transition after appearing in court on rape charges.

Despite continuing to defend her government’s self-identification reforms, Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly refused to say whether Bryson is male or female, instead referring to the rapist as the “individual”.

She insisted at last week’s First Minister’s Questions that she “does not have enough information” to make a decision despite agreeing that the double rapist was “almost certainly” only claiming to be transgender as an “easy way out”.

Ms Sturgeon told the press conference that her Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would allow people born or resident in Scotland aged over 16 to change their legal sex simply by signing a statutory declaration, would strengthen the law.

She said: “My comments about her, the person being a rapist, is in the context of what should happen to them in the prison service.”

“This is a debate about whether this individual should be in a male or female prison and, in my view, what matters there is the nature of the crime and the degree of risk that on the basis of an assessment it is considered that the individual poses.”

Pressed about whether her description of Bryson as “her” meant she considered the rapist to be a woman, Ms Sturgeon said: “Don’t read anything into … what I’m trying to do is address the issues rather than take it into ... headline-generating. I’m trying to rationally deal with the issues that arise here, and that’s what I’ll continue to try to do.”

Asked again why she had referred to Bryson as her, Ms Sturgeon said: “I can’t remember. What I’m saying is, Isla Bryson calls herself a woman.

“But what I’m trying to say is, in the context of the prison service, that is not the relevant factor here. The relevant factor is the crime that the individual has committed and has been convicted of.”

Asked again, Ms Sturgeon said: “She regards herself as a woman. I regard the individual as a rapist. What matters is the individual was convicted of rape, and that is what we’re talking about here, and that is what I will continue to focus on.”

Despite the furore, Ms Sturgeon said she still intends to go to court to overturn a UK Government veto on the Bill. The Scottish Secretary blocked the legislation over concerns it undermines UK-wide protections for women.