Isla Bryson: Trans woman convicted of rape kept separate while in women’s prison, review confirms

The silhouette of a women against prison wires in the colours of the trans Pride flag

Women were “at no point” at risk of harm when trans woman Isla Bryson, convicted by a Scottish court of raping two women prior to her transition, was placed in an all-women’s prison, an urgent case review has found.

The review, ordered by Scotland’s justice secretary Keith Brown, was received earlier this week and found “at no time during this period was any woman in the care of Scottish Prison Service (SPS) at risk of harm as a consequence of the management,” in Bryson’s case.

Following her conviction in January 2023, Bryson was remanded to Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling after being convicted of carrying out the rapes, which took place in 2016 and 2019. 

The review found Bryson did not come into contact with any other inmates during her time at Cornton Vale.

The case of Bryson came to a head on 26 January, when Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Bryson would be held in an all-male prison. 

Sturgeon said: “I don’t see how it’s possible to have a rapist within a female prison, even the understandable public and parliamentary concern.”

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Full report won’t be published

SPS chief executive Teresa Medhurst has said it “is not necessary” to publish the report due to the personal information it contains. The Scottish government confirmed on Thursday (9 February) the entire review will not be shared by the SPS due to data protection reasons. 

Medhurst said reviews are now underway for each trans person currently in custody, with the review also highlighting that progress continues into the management of trans prisoners as part of the wider SPS Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review.

Currently, and until the policy review is complete, any trans person in jail who has a history of violence against women, including sexual offences, will be forced to remain in male prisons. 

The policy, as it stands, also ensures trans prisoners are placed in jails that align with their gender at birth. 

In a bid to create a fairer system for trans prisoners, the review has recommended to improve communication by creating a “shared justice process” for the admission of trans prisoners. 

A justice committee will be held on 22 February, allowing Scottish members of parliament to ask about the review. 

Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay
Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay. (Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay MSP told Sky News the review is a “whitewash summary” that “tells us nothing of any substance”.

Bryson will be sentenced later this month. The judge in the case, Mr Justice Scott, told her at a previous hearing: “You have been convicted by the jury of two extremely serious charges; those being charges of rape.” 

He added the crimes were “considerable” and “a significant sentence is inevitable”.