Tories call for Sturgeon statement on trans prisoners

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The Scottish Tories have called on the First Minister to make a statement to Holyrood to clarify government policy on transgender prisoners.

The issue has been in the spotlight since last week when transgender double rapist Isla Bryson, 31, was remanded to a segregation unit at Cornton Vale prison near Stirling – Scotland’s lone women-only facility.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) took the decision to move Bryson to another prison on Thursday, following public outcry and the concerns of the First Minister being communicated to officials – although Ms Sturgeon said there was no formal direction given by her to make the change.

Over the weekend, the row continued when reports emerged that Tiffany Scott – who had been convicted of stalking a 13-year-old girl before her transition – would be sent to a female unit, reports which were denied by Justice Secretary Keith Brown.

On Sunday, Mr Brown announced a pause to transgender prisoners with convictions for violence against women being moved to the female estate, along with an urgent review of the handling of the Bryson case.

Scottish Tory community safety spokesman Russell Findlay called on the First Minister to make a statement to MSPs this week, adding that his party would seek to amend justice reform legislation being brought to parliament by the government to make the pause permanent.

“After days of SNP chaos, confusion and U-turns, Nicola Sturgeon must come to parliament as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“We need full transparency because the only thing clear at the moment is that the Justice Secretary is in complete disarray.

“Keith Brown was only shamed into this dramatic U-turn after a sustained public outcry over two highly dangerous criminals.

“But a ‘pause’ on criminals with a history of violence against women being housed in female prisons does not go far enough.

“We need a permanent ban to safeguard vulnerable female inmates.

“The last few days have exposed Nicola Sturgeon as being completely out of touch with public opinion. Putting the rights of highly dangerous criminals ahead of those of vulnerable women is utterly perverse.”

Speaking to journalists on Monday, the First Minister would not say if she would make a statement to parliament on the issue, saying that “parliament as a whole has discussed these issues every step of the way”.

The decision to pause the housing of trans prisoners previously violent towards women was taken on Sunday and parliamentarians have not yet had a chance to question ministers in Holyrood on the decision.

“I was in parliament on Thursday, answering questions on this very subject during First Minister’s Questions,” Ms Sturgeon added.

She went on to say there will be “the normal scrutiny and opportunity for questions of me and other ministers in the course of the parliamentary week”.

The Tory MSP also urged the government to speak to Dr Alice Edwards – the UN special rapporteur on torture – who voiced her concerns about the Scott case on Twitter.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Justice Secretary Keith Brown has already undertaken to update Parliament via Ministerial Statement on measures to ensure the on-going safety of prisoners.

“At the conclusion of the prisoner management review he announced, careful consideration will be given to any further action necessary.

“The Scottish Government is always ready to consider specific feedback including measures to make the Bail and Release from Custody Bill, currently before Parliament, even more effective.”

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