Double rapist ‘could have become legally female under Nicola Sturgeon’s gender reforms’

Isla Bryson - Andrew Milligan/PA
Isla Bryson - Andrew Milligan/PA

A double rapist would have been able to become legally female under Nicola Sturgeon’s gender reforms despite the First Minister admitting the predator is “almost certainly” faking being trans, a leading lawyer has said.

Ms Sturgeon this week refused three times to say whether she believed Isla Bryson – previously known as Adam Graham – was male or female, but conceded that the 31-year-old was likely to be pretending to identify as female.

Jonathan Brown, a Scottish advocate, said Ms Sturgeon’s shift undermined her push to allow Scots to change their legal gender without providing evidence and her dismissal of fears that predatory men would abuse the system to access women’s spaces.

The Scottish Tories said the lawyer had “demolished Nicola Sturgeon’s confused position on gender self-ID”, with her legislation currently in limbo after it was blocked by the UK Government.

Bryson was initially placed in a women’s jail under a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) policy that follows the same principles as the SNP legislation.

Mr Brown, a member of the Scottish Bar for more than two decades, said there was “zero doubt” that Bryson would have been able to become legally female had Ms Sturgeon’s self-ID system come into force.

SNP ministers have previously claimed the need to sign a statutory declaration to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, with a potential jail term for those who make a fake claim, would have acted as a deterrent to prevent abuse.

However, as Bryson had denied the rapes under oath at the High Court it is unlikely they would have been concerned about making a false statutory declaration, Mr Brown said.

“If there’s a theoretical process to distinguish between ‘genuinely trans’ and ‘nasty rapist just pretending to be trans’, at what point would that be done?” Mr Brown wrote on Twitter.

“There is, in my view at least, no room at all for a solution to this problem that is a sort of proviso at the end that says ‘unless you’re a rapist, in which case we don’t believe you when you tell us you identify as a woman’.

“It can’t in any sensible world be the position that only rapists get their self-declaration second guessed. It’s either self-declaration for all or it’s subject to an objective check for all.”

He added it was the “remorseless logic” of the view that “trans women are women”, a position endorsed by the Scottish government, that Bryson would be considered female due to their own declaration.

“It is, I think, tolerably clear that the public won’t wear this,” he said. “How, logically, can the First Minister doubt Isla Bryson’s trans status or suggest it’s being faked for opportunistic reasons without a definitional yardstick by which to make that judgment?”

Under Ms Sturgeon’s planned system, a need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to change legal gender would have been removed.

‘Scandal has exposed Nicola Sturgeon’

An “urgent lessons learned review” about why Bryson was initially placed in a women’s jail before being moved to a men’s facility following a public backlash was completed on Friday. However, the Scottish government and Scottish Prison Service have refused to say whether it will be published.

Russell Findlay, community justice spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “It should now be obvious to the First Minister that she cannot enshrine universal self-ID in law only to come up with vague reasons to block certain cases.

“Having long peddled the view that trans women are women, she has suddenly decided that exemptions can apply. This scandal has exposed Nicola Sturgeon to be completely out of touch with public opinion and lacking basic legislative savvy.

“She arrogantly ignored advice and dismissed warnings. I hope she has the common sense to realise that her flawed Gender Recognition Bill is now dead and buried.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “The Scottish Prison Service’s urgent lessons learned review has been submitted to the chief executive of the SPS. As the justice secretary said to Parliament earlier this week, he will update the criminal justice committee on the outcome next week.”