Scotland has paused the movement of any transgender prisoner while it carries out an “urgent” review of the rules.
It comes after prison chiefs in Scotland in recent weeks approved moving Tiffany Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns, to an all-female prison.
Last week, Nicola Sturgeon said that Isla Bryson, a transgender woman convicted of rape carried out while she was a man, will not be imprisoned in the all-female Cornton Vale prison in Scotland.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “We have commenced an urgent review of all transgender cases currently managed in our establishments.
“Our first concern is always, and remains, the health, safety, and wellbeing of all the people in our care, and that of our staff.
“We have very robust risk assessment processes, and a track record of keeping people safe, in often challenging circumstances.
“We have therefore paused the movement of all transgender individuals until the review has been completed.”
The spokesperson said the review will consider “any history of violence or sexual offending against women, and associated risk, with a view to determining the most appropriate location for the individual to be accommodated”.
“Until the review is completed, any trans individuals, with a history of violence towards women, will only be admitted to the male estate, in segregation, when they first enter our care,” the spokesperson added.
‘I hope these measures will offer reassurance’
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “I understand that the issue of any trans woman being convicted of violent and sexual offences is a highly emotive subject and that the public concern is understandable.
“As the first minister pointed out last week, we must not allow any suggestion to take root that trans women pose an inherent threat to women. Predatory men are the risk to women.
“However, as with any group in society, a small number of trans women will offend and be sent to prison.
“Therefore, I hope that the measures will offer reassurance in the ongoing ability of the prison service to manage trans individuals and ensure the safety of all prisoners.
“We must also never forget that there are victims in these cases. My thoughts remain with them.”
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Mr Brown insisted the Scottish Prison Service’s current rules “have in no way been changed or impacted” by the recent passing of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which he said “in any event, is not yet in force”.
“The ongoing safety of prisoners – many of whom have experienced gender-based violence in the community – will remain the priority in all actions that are taken,” he added.
“Beyond the steps being set out today, it is vital that decisions about the location and management of prisoners continue to be based on thorough risk assessment, drawing on the expertise and input of relevant professionals and applying any lessons learned from the reviews referred to.”
The question of all-female units
It comes after it was revealed that prison chiefs in Scotland have in recent weeks approved the move of Scott from a male wing to an all-female unit.
The Scottish Conservatives told Sky News on Saturday that they wanted Ms Sturgeon to block the move, following an intervention to stop another transgender prison, Bryson, from being sent to an all-female prison.
Bryson, a serial sex offender who attacked vulnerable women when she was known as Adam Graham, decided to transition while awaiting trial, which provoked outrage among campaigners.
The 31-year-old was found guilty of raping two women following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow this month.
There had been concerns over her detention in Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling while she awaits sentencing.
However, speaking at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon confirmed Bryson would not be held at Cornton Vale.
She also said a risk assessment was being carried out by the Scottish Prison Service.
“It would not be appropriate for me in respect of any prisoner to give details of where they are being incarcerated,” she said.
“But given the understandable public and parliamentary concern in this case I can confirm to parliament that this prisoner will not be incarcerated at Cornton Vale women’s prison.
“I hope that provides assurance to the public.”