Transgender prisoner management: urgent case review correspondence

Letters relating to the Scottish Prison Service’s review into the case of Isla Bryson.

Justice Committee letter

To: Audrey Nicoll MSP, Convener, Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice Committee
From: Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown MSP

Transgender prisoners

Further to both my letter to the Committee and Statement in Parliament on 31 January, I am writing to share with the Committee the letter from Teresa Medhurst, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to me regarding the lessons learned review SPS has concluded in regard to the case of Isla Bryson and the recommendations from that process.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge my concern for victims of crime and the distress caused to them.  My thoughts remain with them. I am conscious that it is important that consideration of issues relating to the management of prisoners is measured and does not retraumatise victims or risk unintended consequences for transgender people or individuals in the care of SPS.

Transgender people are some of the most marginalised people in society; and legitimate questions and debate should not fuel a discourse which is harmful to transgender people generally. I am open to any suggestions from Committee members which could help to place this debate on a more respectful and calm footing, and reduce any risk of increased stigmitisation against trans people.

I would also like to acknowledge the work SPS has done in continuing to fulfil its operational responsibilities while completing the lessons learned review. SPS has considerable expertise in managing complex, high-profile and challenging individuals within their care and keeping people safe; and I commend their professionalism.

As outlined in her letter, the SPS Chief Executive has offered a number of key assurances, including the following:

  • at no time during this period was any women in SPS care at risk of harm as a consequence of the management of the indivdual
  • SPS policy was followed during each decision making process and risk assessment
  • the individual concerned remains in the male estate after a rigorous risk assessment procedure and multi-disciplinary case conference
  • full multi-disciplinary reviews are underway for each transgender person in custody

All recommendations from the lessons learned review have been accepted by Ms Medhurst as Chief Executive and will be progressed by SPS in collaboration with others as needed. The recommendations relate to information sharing, communication between justice partners, individualised risk assessment and the admissions procedure.   As confirmed in the letter, SPS will factor the learning identified from this review into its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review, which is ongoing.

Pending the outcome of the GIGR Policy Review, protective measures to provide reassurance will remain in place.

Ms Medhurst and I have agreed to appear at the Committee session on 22 February. I will of course welcome the opportunity to answer questions from Committee members.

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