NICOLA Sturgeon refused to rule out biologically male rapists still being sent to female prisons as she launched a furious attack on critics of her gender self-ID plan.
The First Minister’s explosive comments came in an interview amid outrage at the handling of the case of trans sex predator Isla Bryson.
Furious Sturgeon blasted ‘transphobic & racist’ opponents to gender self-ID bill
Ms Sturgeon previously suggested that in future, rapists would not be able to be housed in women’s prisons
Rapist Isla Bryson appearing at court in Glasgow
Speaking to Global podcast The News Agents, Ms Sturgeon warned against a “blanket” ban on rapists going to women’s prisons, saying it should be a “presumption” but with each case subject to a “risk assessment”.
And on the wider topic of self-ID, the First Minister said some opponents of her controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill were claiming to support “women’s rights” – but were actually “cloaking” the fact they are “transphobic”, “deeply misogynist”, “homophobic”, and “racist”.
Her remarks came in an interview on Thursday afternoon where she was quizzed on the double-rapist Bryson, who was still Adam Graham when the fiend raped two women in 2016 and 2019.
The 31-year-old began identifying as a woman after being charged, and was referred to in court as a female – despite no evidence Bryson has legally changed gender.
This week, Bryson was initially sent to Scotland’s women’s prison Cornton Vale, sparking anger – before prison bosses u-turned.
Despite fury over the Bryson case, comments trailed ahead of The News Agents interview with reporter Lewis Goodall show Ms Sturgeon left the door open to more biologically male sex attackers being sent to female prisons – warning of a “danger with a blanket approach”.
Reporter asked her: “There are lots of politicians who just think there should be a blanket ban. They think that’s common sense. And they say that the public would agree with all that. Why not just have that commitment?”
Ms Sturgeon – who was speaking shortly after First Minister’s questions on Thursday – replied: “I’ve said very clearly today. I don’t think it is, you know, I think as a general principle, somebody who rapes a woman should not be in a female prison. I’ve said it in Parliament.
“But I do think when we’re dealing with the prison population, generally, there needs to be that risk assessment approach, because the danger of taking a blanket approach to anything, and I accept what people are saying, the blanket approach here, the danger of any blanket approach is you end up having a different effect to the one you want because you catch cases that should be dealt with in a different way.
“So I think the individualised risk assessment process is strong, but I do believe that is effectively what I said today, there should be a presumption that somebody who is convicted of rape is not in a woman’s prison.”
Ms Sturgeon was then asked by Mr Goodall: “Just a presumption, not a guarantee?”
And she replied: “I think the processes that are there will make sure that the right outcome is arrived at.”
On Thursday at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon appeared to suggest that in future, rapists would not be able to be housed in women’s prisons in Scotland.
However, her comments did not explicitly state this.
At FMQs, Ms Sturgeon said: “There is no automatic right for a trans woman who is convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in a female prison, even if they have a gender recognition certificate.
“Every case is subject to rigorous individual risk assessment and, as part of that, the safety of other prisoners is paramount.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I heard the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland say yesterday: ‘I don’t see how it’s possible to have a rapist within a female prison.’
“And I am very clear that I agree with that statement. Bearing in mind what I have just said about the importance of individualised risk assessment as a general principle and presumption, that statement is correct.”
Bryson was this week found guilty of the rapes of two vulnerable women in 2016 and 2019.
Bryson was still going by the name Adam Graham when charged, but later began identifying as female and the name on the charge sheet was initially changed to Annie Bryson, and then Isla Bryson.
The guilty verdict this week comes amid a furious row over the SNP-Green government’s attempt to bring in a system of gender self-ID in Scotland.
Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill – currently being blocked by the UK Government – aims to allow anyone aged 16 or over to change sex on their birth certificate in a six-month process, simply by signing a legal declaration.
Current UK-wide rules mean a gender ID change can only be granted to over 18s with a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and after two-years living in a new gender.
The Scottish Tories and others say the Bryson case underlines why a joint bid by the Conservatives and several SNP backbenchers to stop sex offenders changing gender – as well as those awaiting trial for sex offences should not have been rejected by Holyrood in December.
SNP ministers argued against amendments which were narrowly defeated.
More generally, several women’s groups have argued self-ID would pose a risk to women and girls as it would make it easier for predators to abuse the system and change gender, making it hard to deny them access to women-only spaces including prisons.
But in The News Agents interview, the First Minister said: “I have heard people, politicians, claiming to be defenders of women’s rights who I’d never heard defend women’s rights in the past.
“In fact, I’ve heard some support policies… that run counter to women’s rights.
“We have legislation looming later in this Parliament on criminal justice reform to try to deal with issues of low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault, we are likely to be dealing with legislation in months to come around abortion buffer zones.
“And I think it will be interesting to see how many of the so-called defenders of women’s rights in the context of the trans debate suddenly don’t think that all women’s rights are actually important.
“And there are some people that I think have decided to use women’s rights as a sort of cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia.
“Now, again, that’s not everybody who opposes this bill. I want to be very clear about that.
“But there are people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women’s rights to make it acceptable, but just as they’re transphobic you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well.”
Earlier this week, amid debate over the Bryson case, UK Government Justice Secretary Dominic Raab released updated policy about trans prisoners and said: “In England and Wales, transgender women without a GRC [Gender Recognition Certificate] are sent to male prisons as a matter of course.
“Our further, common-sense changes will mean transgender women who have committed sex crimes or retain male genitalia can’t be held in women’s prisons, bar the most exceptional cases authorised by Ministers.”