The retired governor of the Scottish women’s prison housing transgender double rapist Isla Bryson declared today that if she was still in charge, she would have quit if she had to be the sex attacker’s jailor.
Rhona Hotchkiss believes it is ‘appalling’ that the 31-year-old was sent to Cornton Vale jail after being convicted of raping two women while a man, Adam Graham.
Bryson is being held at Scotland’s only full female jail while risk assessments are carried out ahead of sentencing on February 28 – but critics say the abuser is a danger to women and has prompted calls for Nicola Sturgeon’s stalling Gender Recognition Reform Bill to be reviewed.
Miss Hotchkiss is an ally of JK Rowling and a director of the author’s Beira’s Place project – a ‘woman-only’ sexual violence support service in Edinburgh which will not cater for trans women.
The retired prison boss said: ‘This [Isla Bryson] would have been a resignation issue for me. I am absolutely clear about the fact that they should be in a male prison – you simply cannot have someone like this terrorising women. It’s appalling. The thought that a double rapist can identify his way into a women’s prison should shock everyone.
‘The other shocking aspect is, the Scottish parliament could have chosen to legislate against that happening and they didn’t.’
Meanwhile Ms Sturgeon will come under fresh pressure today over the decision to place Bryson in a women’s prison. She will be grilled at First Ministers Questions at noon amid fury from Scottish Tories and demands for an explanation.
Transgender rapist Isla Bryson has been sent to a women’s prison despite carrying out the crimes as a man and transitioning after being charged
Rhona Hotchkiss (bottom right) is a director of the women-only sexual violence support Beira’s Place in Edinburgh, which will not cater for trans women. It is funded by Ms Rowling who is a director with (left to right back row) Susan Smith, Johann Lamont and Margaret McCartney
Miss Hotchkiss told LBC Radio: ‘Before I left I was in a very difficult situation where I was refusing to force female staff to search male-bodied prisoners and I was told that I would be making life very difficult for myself.
‘Had I not been going to take early retirement anyway, I would have stayed and pursued that. But today, this would have been a resignation issue for me.
‘I have no doubt this is a red line I would not have crossed and as the governor of Cornton Vale I would have refused to have this person in my prison.’
Scotland’s First Minister was questioned at a press conference on Monday at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh about appalling signs at the Rally for Trans Equality in Glasgow on Saturday.
Police Scotland has said it is investigating after reports into a sign at the rally. SNP MP Kirsten Oswald and her party colleague, MSP Kaukab Stewart, were pictured with the signs in the background calling to ‘decapitate terfs’.
Miss Hotchkiss tweeted of Ms Sturgeon: ‘Women have been telling her for years that violent misogyny is a cornerstone of trans ideology & she’s been ignoring us. She still is’.
Rishi Sunak and Dominic Raab have slammed Nicola Sturgeon after the Scottish First Minister refused to move a transgender double rapist from a women’s prison.
Downing Street showed ‘concerns’ about the Scottish government putting a male-bodied rapist in a women’s prison.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said he had ‘seen the reporting and understands the concerns’ over the decision to let transgender woman Isla Bryson – formerly known as Adam Graham – be held in a women’s prison despite raping two women.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that such a move would not happen south of the border, after the Government overhauled rules to stop transgender sex offenders from being held in women’s prisons.
Downing Street showed ‘concerns’ about the Scottish government putting a male-bodied rapist in a women’s prison – in a move that will place pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to reverse the decision
Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said he had ‘seen the reporting and understands the concerns’ over the decision
Under the new changes, Mr Raab said transgender women who had committed sex crimes or retained male genitalia could not be held in women’s prisons except in the most exceptional cases authorised by ministers.
Both Downing Street and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed they were powerless to stop the Scottish Government’s move because criminal justice is a devolved responsibility.
The decision on the transgender rapist has no wider impact on the UK’s equality laws or practices in English and Welsh jails.
A government source told The Telegraph: ‘The point is that we are taking a more common sense approach. We are going further in our reform of the prison rules in a way that the public would expect to ensure that prisoners get the safety they would expect behind bars.’
Bryson only started to transition after appearing in court on the rape charges. MPs and MSPs warned yesterday that female inmates could be at risk, and the move sent a signal that male sex offenders could ‘game the system’.
The case has prompted calls for Nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill to be reviewed.
The Bill, which was blocked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, would allow anyone over the age of 16 to ‘self-identify’ as the opposite sex without the need for medical evidence or diagnosis.
Nationalist MP Joanna Cherry told Times Radio: ‘To many people, it will look like this convicted rapist has gamed the system [and] a lot of people will be shocked by that.
‘Women in prison are very vulnerable. Many have themselves been abused and suffered injuries over the years.
‘The point about human rights is that they’re universal, and they apply to everyone.
‘So I’m very concerned about the safety of women prisoners, with whom a convicted rapist has been placed.
‘Under Scots law, the crime of rape can only be committed by somebody with a penis, and that’s a man. I think we should call out what’s happened here.’
An amendment to the Bill that would have prevented people changing gender while awaiting trial was proposed by the Tories but was voted down by MSPs.
In an urgent question at Holyrood yesterday, Scottish Tory community safety spokesman Russell Findlay said: ‘This scenario is exactly what I tried to stop during the passage of Nicola Sturgeon’s Bill, but my amendment was voted down by the narrowest of margins.
‘Even with this flawed Bill in limbo, violent criminals are exploiting the system and putting vulnerable women at risk.’
Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: ‘I trust the Scottish Prison Service to deal with this.
‘They do not, as is the case in England and Wales, have their process determined by the presence of a gender recognition certificate. So if somebody did have a GRC, it wouldn’t guarantee them the right to be transferred to the place of their choice.
‘Every decision is carried out on the basis of risk.’
Mr Findlay said: ‘Rather than direct the SPS to block this rapist and any others from being sent to a women’s prison, the justice secretary passed the buck to them.’
He added: ‘I’d urge Nicola Sturgeon to admit she has got this badly wrong and include our amendment in any redrafted version of the Bill.’
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said ‘common sense’ changes in England ‘will mean transgender women who have committed sex crimes or retain male genitalia can’t be held in women’s prisons’.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: ‘Where there are any concerns about any risks posed by an individual, either to themselves or others, we retain the ability to keep them separate from the mainstream population until an agreed management plan is in place.’
Miss Sturgeon told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘There is no automatic right for a trans woman convicted of an offence to go to a women’s prison.
‘The SPS individually assesses all prisoners or potential prisoners, does detailed risk assessments of the safety of the individual prisoner [and] of those that will be around the individual prisoner.
‘This is about individual risk assessments.’