Ireland may have to consider changing laws around trans prisoners – Varadkar

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Ireland may have to consider introducing policies similar to those in Scotland around where to house trans women in prisons, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said.

It follows a prominent case that preceded Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister, as the SNP leader sought to push through a series of gender reforms.

In January Isla Bryson, a transgender woman convicted of raping two women while she was a man, was moved to the men’s estate in a Scottish prison.

She had previously been kept in a segregation unit away from other prisoners in the women’s section of the facility.

Scottish Prison Service took the decision to halt the movement of all transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women into the female estate.

The Taoiseach said on Tuesday that if a similar situation were to arise in Ireland, it would be dealt with “in a similar way”.

It is understood that there are such cases in Ireland.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, he said: “If the situation that arose in Scotland has now arisen in Ireland, well then we’re going to have to deal with it in a similar way.”

He said he would have to speak to Justice Minister Simon Harris, adding that “we may have to consider” changing the law so that “women are protected”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, the Irish Prison Service said that it is drafting a policy on the management of transgender prisoners, expected to be completed in the coming months.

It said that where a court makes an order committing a person to a prison, the Irish Prison Service “must accept that person into custody in whichever prison is specified by the court”.

“All prisoners committed are accommodated in accordance with their legal gender,” it said.

“The assessment of the prisoner’s needs may require a prison governor to consider the biological gender, legal gender, gender identity, transgender, gender expression, sexual orientation or gender recognition legislation.

“The governor will also consider the risks posed, including any risk to the prisoner themselves and any level of risk to other prisoners.

“This risk assessment will determine the regime necessary to ensure the safety of all prisoners and may include the accommodation of the prisoner on a restricted regime under rule 63 of the prison rules.

“The governor may also make a recommendation on the appropriate placement within the prison system, taking into consideration good order, security and operational issues, protection issues, available accommodation and the healthcare and other needs of the prisoner as well as the safety and security of other prisoners and staff.”

The statement added: “The Irish Prison Service is currently drafting a policy for the management of transgender prisoners, to take account of evolving trends internationally and fact-finding in relation to best practice in other jurisdictions in order to inform the final policy, which remains under careful consideration before finalisation in the coming months.”

In an interview with Sky News this week, Ms Sturgeon said she was “not out of step” with the Sottish public in pursuing gender reform laws.

“The threat to women is abusive and predatory men, not trans people,” she said.

“My regret was that I wasn’t able to take the debate and the discourse around it into a more rational place.”

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