Scottish Prison Service accused of trans policy cover up

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has come under fire for hiding female prisoners’ views on allowing men to access women’s jails.

The SPS refused to publish survey results from a review of its 2014 guidance stating that “accommodation provided must be the one that best suits the person in custody’s needs and should reflect the gender in which the person in custody is currently living”.

In its updated policy, men who claim to be women will continue to be eligible for admission or transfer to a women’s prison unless they have a record of “violence against a female”.


The SPS claimed that replying to the Freedom of Information request would endanger the respondents’ confidentiality and “prejudice substantially the effective conduct of public affairs”.

But former SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said its refusal “smacked of a cover-up”.

He stated: “This is entirely unacceptable. An assessment can’t be made without being able to consider all sides of the argument and, in particular, the views of women prisoners who are most impacted”.

“Anonymity can and should be given but the totality of what was said by women must be available.”


In a letter to Teresa Medhurst, the head of the SPS, the former governor of Cornton Vale women’s prison, Rhona Hotchkiss, asked: “Why was this research never issued by the SPS?”

She added: “It is abundantly clear that women in prison — not all of them and not all of the time — are by turns distressed, frightened, annoyed or irritated by the presence of men who identify as women in women’s prisons.”

Hotchkiss also expressed her concern of staff “having to buy into the fiction that trans women are literally women although they have no Gender Recognition Certificate and still have male bodies.”

Criminologist Dr Kath Murray said the SPS was “failing to learn the lessons from the Isla Bryson/Adam Graham scandal”, warning: “Men who identify as women present just the same risks as any other men – because, put simply, people cannot change sex.”

‘Gender identity’

Last year, the SPS offered accommodation in women’s jails to male prisoners claiming to be female to prepare them for their release.

In an equality assessment report, the service claimed men “should be provided the opportunity and supported to work towards being accommodated in an estate that aligns with their affirmed gender so that, on release to the community, they have had the opportunity to live with those who share their affirmed gender”.

The SPS argued that even for men who are not to be allowed in women’s prisons, “there may be other ways of supporting their gender identity, for example through access to work parties, activities, or even programmes with others of their gender identity”.

Also see:


MoJ criticised for promoting ‘LGBT activism’ in prisons

Public back single-sex spaces for women who are victims of violence

Prison Officer guidance: ‘TERFs driving anti-trans hate in UK’

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