THE BBC is facing questions after Fiona Bruce wrongly claimed that “a trans woman with a history of extreme violence” had been placed in a female jail by the Scottish Prison Service – despite the First Minister having made clear it was not true just hours earlier.
Bruce made the claim during a heated and controversial episode of the BBC’s flagship show Question Time which focused on gender recognition law.
The topic has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after the UK Government moved to block the Scottish Parliament’s gender reform bill from becoming law. The spotlight remained on the topic of trans rights after Isla Bryson, a trans person, was convicted of raping two women while still identifying as male.
Initially held in solitary at a women’s prison, Bryson was moved to the male estate after conviction and a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) risk review.
Reports at the weekend claimed that a second trans person, Tiffany Scott, had applied to be moved from the male to female estate – despite the SPS having rejected repeated previous applications.
Scott stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns and was said to have attacked female staff while in jail – but media reports based on an anonymous source claimed that they were set to be moved to a women’s prison anyway.
Rebutting the reports on Sunday, the Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “No transgender person already in custody with any history of violence against women will be moved from the male to the female estate.”
This was reinforced by Nicola Sturgeon (above), who at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday said: “It is not the case that any decision had been taken to allow either of those people [Bryson or Scott] to serve their sentences in women’s prisons.”
However, while hosting Question Time, Bruce said the opposite was true.
She told BBC viewers: "Tiffany Scott, who is a trans woman with a history of extreme violence, has got a lifelong restriction order after being convicted of stalking a 13-year-old.
“She was approved to go to a female prison in Scotland – and this by the Scottish Prison Service.”
An SNP source questioned why the Question Time host was not better prepared with the facts.
They told The National: "The BBC's flagship political debate programme really should have prepared and had a more complete understanding of actual events before trying to handle this issue.
“A grasp of basic facts is the very least that audiences should expect."
The BBC did not respond to concerns about the accuracy of Bruce's statement.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases, but pointed The National to previous comments made by the Justice Secretary.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson also said they could not comment on individuals.
Speaking broadly, they said: “We have commenced an urgent review of all transgender cases currently managed in our establishments.
“Our first concern is always, and remains, the health, safety, and wellbeing of all the people in our care, and that of our staff.
“We have very robust risk assessment processes, and a track record of keeping people safe, in often challenging circumstances.
“We have therefore paused the movement of all transgender individuals, until the review has been completed.
“This review will consider any history of violence or sexual offending against women, and associated risk, with a view to determining the most appropriate location for the individual to be accommodated.
“This arrangement will be progressed in line with our human rights obligations.
“Finally, our ongoing policy review will be independently assessed by experts in women affected by trauma and violence.”