Former prison governor says Scots trans law puts female inmates at risk

(Photo: Unsplash)

A former prison head says she fears female inmates will be put at greater risk of physical or sexual assault if Scotland goes ahead with gender reforms.

Rhona Hotchkiss, governor at women's prison Cornton Vale until last year, said that the Scottish government's Gender Recognition Bill could see men "who may want to hurt women" identify as transgender and be housed with female inmates, The Sunday Times reports.

The Scottish government is currently consulting on plans to reform the law so that people can more easily change their gender status.

The proposals include lowering the age at which a person can apply for a gender recognition certificate to 16.

The new laws would also remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and reduce the time required for the applicant to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months.

Hotchkiss said that at the time she stepped down from her role at Cornton Vale, there were 22 individuals across Scottish prisons identifying as the opposite sex.

"They were not all in the women's estate but identifying as trans and looking to [transfer]," she said.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said that, at present, there are 10 transgender women behind bars.

A Scottish government spokesman defended the plans and denied that they put women at risk.

"Trans men and women have had the right to change their gender for 15 years — the proposed reforms are about the process of how they achieve that change," he said.

"The proposals do not change the rights of women. Their rights and protections will be as strong under this bill as they are today."