Nicola Sturgeon suggests rapist Isla Bryson may not trans, says conviction is ‘only important factor’

Nicola Sturgeon in a pink suit

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested it is “almost certainly” the case that rapist Isla Bryson is not actually transgender, but added the rape conviction is the “only important factor in this case”. 

Scotland’s first minister faced further pressure over the topic of trans prisoners on Wednesday (2 February) at First Minister’s Questions

The SNP leader has been at the epicentre of debates around trans rights in recent months after Scottish parliament passed landmark reforms of its gender laws, which were subsequently blocked by Westminister, and the conviction of Bryson – who raped two women prior to identifying as a woman. 

Bryson was found guilty of raping the women, one in 2016 and the other 2019, by a jury after a six-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow. 

Controversy arose when Bryson was remanded to Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling while awaiting sentencing. 

The backlash prompted Sturgeon to announce on 26 January that Byrson would be moved to a men’s facility, while Scotland’s justice secretary Keith Brown later announced an “urgent review” into several cases of trans women, charged with assaulting women, will be carried out.

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At FMQ’s, Sturgeon was pressed by leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Douglas Ross over whether she agrees if Bryson should be considered a woman after Brown said that was the case.

Isla Bryson should be treated as a rapist first and foremost

Nicola Sturgeon initially responded by stating that she believes “that rapists should be considered a rapist” and would not get into “the individual circumstances of that particular individual’s claims to be a woman” as she does not have enough information. 

“The individual has been convicted of serious sex offences and that is the relevant consideration in terms of which prison they should be accommodated in,” she said. 

Tory leader Douglas Ross, who represents Moray, further pressed the first minister over the Scottish government’s policies in regards to whether Bryson could be considered a woman. 

During his questions, he read out a statement from one of Isla Bryson’s victims who stated: “I don’t believe a word. I don’t believe [they’re] truly transgender. 

“I feel as if [they’ve] made a mockery out of them using it as far as I’m concerned. That was to make things easier for [themself]. I’m sure [they’re] faking it.

“You’ve got genuine cases where people are desperate to get reassignment for the right reasons, because they’d been born into that body. 

“Not because they’ve raped to people and decided that that’s an easy way out.” 

Douglas Ross then asked Nicola Sturgeon if she was giving “rapists an easy way out”. 

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross pressed the first minister over Isla Bryson’s trans identity (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

She replied by saying she feels it is “almost certainly the case” that Bryson is utilising a trans identity to experience an easier time in prison. 

“Which is why,” she continued, “the key factor in this case, is not the individual’s claim to be a woman. 

“The key and in fact, only important factor in this case is that the individual has been convicted of rape. 

“The individual is a rapist and that is the factor. 

“That should be the deciding one in decisions about how that prisoner is now treated. And indeed, that is what is happening in terms of where the prisoner is.” 

During First Ministers Questions both Ross and Sturgeon did, however, agree that “trans people are not the problem” and public outcry and media scrutiny around Bryson’s case should not be used to stigmatise the wider community. 

“The trans community, the overwhelming majority of whom, like the overwhelming majority of the general population, never commit any offences,” she said.

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