Scotland's Chief Prisons Inspector says there are bigger issues than trans prisoners and focus should be on homelessness

5 October 2023, 07:58 | Updated: 5 October 2023, 07:59

Wendy Sinclair-Gieben was speaking to LBC as an inspection report into HMP Perth was published.
Wendy Sinclair-Gieben was speaking to LBC as an inspection report into HMP Perth was published. Picture: Alamy
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

A senior prison inspector has told LBC there are far greater issues than trans prisoners in women's jails - like war and poverty.

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Wendy Sinclair-Gieben is His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, where the subject's come under intense scrutiny in recent months.

A fierce debate surrounded the case of double rapist Isla Bryson, who had committed crimes while she was known as a man called Adam Graham.

Bryson had originally been placed in a women's prison while awaiting sentencing before being moved to the male estate.

A review led to new guidance which now sees all inmates sent to a prison housing their birth gender before undergoing individual assessments.

And Scotland's then Justice Secretary Keith Brown said at the time: "That will very often be a process which is undertaken in a segregated environment before an assessment is made as to where the person goes.

"And if it turns out the person has that history [of violence against women or girls] then of course they will not be going to, if they are a trans woman, the female estate."

Trans woman brands Isla Bryson an 'abhorrent, horrible creature'

And HMCIPS Wendy Sinclair-Gieben - who inspects all 15 prisons across Scotland - told us she backs the risk assessment approach. She said: "I feel quite strongly that the approach of risk assessing the person and the community is the right approach.

"So if you've got a women's unit and a trans woman - someone who has done the transgender process and is now seen as a woman - if you risk assess both as safe then it is perfectly acceptable [for a trans woman to be held in women's prisons] and that's the policy I would back up and support

"But for me I fail to understand what the interest is, because there's never been an issue with trans people in Scottish prisons.

"We have far greater issues of homelessness, food poverty and war on our borders."

In England and Wales, transgender offenders who have committed sexual or violent crimes or retain male genitalia won't serve their sentence in a women's prison unless explicitly approved at the highest level.

Wendy Sinclair-Gieben was speaking to LBC as an inspection report into HMP Perth was published.

It commended the work of "strong management" and a "committed staff group" in running "an establishment that did many things to a high standard."

That involved new employment initiatives and creating a recovery hub delivered in partnership with agencies led by individuals with lived experience of substance use.

However, it did raise "deep concerns" over the small size of shared cells and the issue of drones being used to deliver "large quantities of contraband".