Bryson, 31, committed offences in Clydebank and Glasgow in 2016 and 2019 before transitioning
Isla Bryson arriving at the high court in Glasgow in January. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA
A transgender woman found guilty of raping two women before transitioning has been jailed for eight years.
Isla Bryson was convicted last month of raping two women – one in Clydebank in 2016 and one in Glasgow in 2019 – while still a man known as Adam Graham.
Prosecutors said the 31-year-old “preyed” on vulnerable women after meeting them online.
Bryson was sentenced to eight years in prison at the high court in Edinburgh, with a further three years on licence.
The judge, Lord Scott, said Bryson posed a high risk of reoffending. He added that Bryson continues to “vehemently deny” the offences and claims that the victims “colluded” against her.
Scott acknowledged Bryson is considered “vulnerable in some ways” due to adverse childhood experiences, but said: “You see yourself as the victim in this situation. You are not.
“Your vulnerability is no excuse at all for what you did to these two women.
“You raped two women who can both be regarded as vulnerable.”
The case sparked a debate over transgender prisoners after Bryson was initially remanded in Scotland’s all-female Cornton Vale prison. It prompted concerns from politicians and campaigners about the safety of women held alongside a transgender sex offender in a female jail.
Bryson was moved to a male facility less than 72 hours later after an intervention by Scotland’s outgoing first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Scotland’s justice secretary, Keith Brown, ordered an urgent review of the case and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) took the decision to halt the movement of all transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women into the female estate.
Opponents of the Scottish government’s gender recognition reforms – which the UK government has blocked from going for royal assent because of “safety issues for women and children” – said that the case vindicated their concerns about lack of safeguards in the bill.
Bryson, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, first appeared in court in 2019 as Adam Graham and both victims knew their attacker by that name. In court papers in 2020, around the time of the decision to transition, the defendant was named as Isla Annie Bryson, formerly known as Adam Graham.
She was found guilty of two charges of rape in January after a six-day trial at the high court in Glasgow. During the trial, the court heard that Bryson was going through the breakdown of a brief, unhappy, marriage and went to stay with the first victim at the victim’s mother’s house in Clydebank in 2016.
Giving evidence on pre-recorded video, the victim, 30, said she was raped for half an hour. She said: “All I said was ‘no’ over and over and over again. At the time I was so scared. Sick to the stomach. I just didn’t know what was going on.”
The second victim, who gave evidence via live videolink, told the court Bryson continued to have sex with her after she said stop.
The victim said: “I said to stop but he (Bryson) just kept on going, and that’s when I just closed my eyes and I am doing what he wanted to do.”
Giving evidence during the trial, Bryson spoke of identifying as transgender at the age of four but not making the decision to transition until age 29. The defendant claimed both women consented to having sex.
On Tuesday, Lord Scott said Bryson was, in fact, “preying on these two women because of their vulnerability and raped them in their own homes where they were entitled to feel safe”.
Addressing Bryson, he added: “You are not at the stage of accepting what you did or acknowledging the serious harm you inflicted on two women.”
The court heard the rapist, who appeared in court wearing a blond wig and dressed in black leggings and a fluorescent pink jacket, is still pursuing full gender reassignment and is on “the maximum recommended doses of hormone prescription”.
Defence advocate Edward Targowski KC said this, coupled with “troubled early years”, makes his client vulnerable. He said Bryson’s move to transition following both rapes was not “an afterthought cynically designed to reduce the punishment”./