Iain Dale 7pm - 10pm
The risk to female prisoners posed by Isla Bryson is as obvious as his tackle
26 January 2023, 16:59
Rapists should not be in women’s prisons.
It’s a statement that seems so blindingly obvious it’s a wonder it needs to be said out loud. Yet that’s where things stand in Scotland right now.
Isla Bryson is a convicted double rapist. Now self-identifying as a woman, the rapes were carried out when he was known as Adam Graham.
Still awaiting sentencing, after conviction the 31-year-old was taken to Scotland’s women’s prison, Cornton Vale in Stirlingshire, and that is when the minds of many people exploded.
Bryson is clearly male. Photographs attest to it - tight leggings leave very little to the imagination when it comes to male genitalia.
Even a bright blonde wig (neatly covering a Mike Tyson style face tattoo) and fake nails can’t detract from that.
Rape is a male crime. It needs a penis. And that’s what Bryson has.
Yet because of a transgender status - something his estranged wife has described as a “sham” - it was to Cornton Vale with this particular rapist.
This is because the Scottish prison service has to, at least in the first instance, treat a prisoner in the gender identity which they claim - no matter how heinous the crime.
Then a multi-disciplinary team “risk assess”. But the risk to female prisoners - some of whom who have probably suffered from sexual violence - is surely as obvious as Bryson’s tackle.
Thankfully the public outcry has been heard all the way to Bute House and Nicola Sturgeon has said one thing with which the majority of Scots would agree: rapists should not be in women’s prisons.
She has not gone as far as to say that Bryson is a man, or even male. That would, for her, undermine the right of transgender people to self-identify - a stance on which she has based her controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
But we know that has not become law yet because of the UK government refusing to allow it to gain Royal Assent - partly because of the potential impact of self-identification on the safety of women and girls.
The First Minister has been consistent in one thing throughout the whole progress of that Bill - that it is predatory men who are a risk to women, not trans women. Today her spokesman wouldn’t say into which category Nicola Sturgeon believes Bryson fits.
Clearly not all trans women are violent, or pose any kind of risk to women. Of course they don’t. Just like #notallmen.
But this one does. Despite the hormones, the wig, the nails, it is the same body, the same penis, that Bryson used to rape with which has been locked up in Cornton Vale, even if segregated from other prisoners, for the last two days.
Now Bryson is to be moved to the male prison estate. But this situation will have, for many people, brought the practical implementation of self-ID policy into sharp focus.
For those who support the idea, the decision to shift Bryson will show that a case by case risk assessment approach works. For those who have warned that predatory men will use any loophole they can to abuse such a system, this is vindication.
Bryson’s estranged wife Shonna said she "fell out of bed laughing" when she saw pictures of her husband as his trans self. "I can see why he doesn't want to be in a prison with loads of big scary men, so he's come up with this ploy to get himself a much easier sentence.
"Sending him to a women's prison is outrageous, will one of the vulnerable women inmates be the next victim to be attacked by him? He won't stop, it's in his nature."
Now there’s a risk assessment.