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HMA v Isla Bryson


Feb 28, 2023

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Scott sentenced Isla Bryson to an extended sentence of 11 years, in cumulo, for two charges of rape. The custodial term was set at 8 years, with an extension period of 3 years.

On sentencing, Lord Scott said:

"On 24 January of this year, you were found guilty of two charges of rape involving two different women

In addition to calling for a criminal justice social work report (CJSWR), I asked to be provided with any additional information relevant to the potentially complex and sensitive issues which may arise from your personal circumstances.  I have now been provided with a letter dated 2 February 2022 from your GP and information from the Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic. This supplements the detailed psychiatric report dated 6 November 2022 from Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Khuram Khan and his brief supplementary report dated 15 November 2022. I had previously seen the detailed assessment by Consultant Clinical Forensic Psychologist Dr Fiona Munro dated 28 October 2020, together with her supplementary report dated 22 September 2021. That followed a report dated 13 July 2021 instructed by the Crown from Consultant Forensic Clinical Psychologist Dr Louise Tansey which I have also seen.

I note that you maintained the same position in interview with the author of the CJSWR as you did in your evidence.  In relation to the level of responsibility you accept, the report states that you vehemently deny that you committed either of these offences.  Without any foundation, you claim to believe that the 2 victims may know each other and have colluded in their claims.

You have constructed an alternative account of events which was rejected by the jury. I will therefore ignore it. You see yourself as the victim in this situation. You are not.

The Sentencing Guideline on the Principles and Purposes of Sentencing explains what must be considered in determining a fair and proportionate sentence. This includes taking your circumstances into account as well as the seriousness of the offences and the impact on the victims.From the information before me, it appears that you have been considered to be a vulnerable adult and it seems that you suffered from serious adverse childhood experiences. Dr Munro considered that you have a set of neuro-developmental disorders, namely dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). These have impacted on your social functioning to some extent. For the avoidance of doubt, despite some uncertainty about the precise conditions from which you suffer, I proceed, as urged on me by Mr Targowski, on the basis that you are vulnerable in some ways.

However, the seriousness of these crimes far outweighs considerations arising from your circumstances.

Your vulnerability is no excuse at all for what you did to these two women in in 2016 and 2019. Regardless of your own vulnerability, in a period of just under 3 years, you raped two women who can both be regarded as vulnerable. The similarities in their vulnerability are consistent with the case presented against you by the Crown which was that both crimes occurred as part of a course of criminal conduct systematically pursued by you.  That course of conduct involved preying on these women because of their vulnerability and raping them in their own homes where they were entitled to feel entirely safe.

There are no victim impact statements but it is well known that conduct such as yours can have serious and permanent consequences.   

With regards to risk assessment, two specific risk assessment tools indicate that you present a high risk of reconviction of sexual offending.

The CJSWR states that there would need to be a significantly high level of supervision and monitoring of you in the community to ensure that the risk you pose to others is reduced.  It also explains that there ‘would need to be a level of acceptance to allow any intervention to be successful’.

You are not yet at the stage of accepting what you did or acknowledging responsibility for the serious harm you have inflicted on two vulnerable women. That means that the question of risk is a real issue which must be addressed as part of the sentence.

You have 3 relatively minor previous convictions. These are all at summary level and I attach little weight to them.

Today, Mr Targowski addressed me in mitigation. He mentioned your troubled early years which are detailed in the CJSWR. He mentioned the various reports that I listed earlier. He acknowledged that a period of supervision is appropriate as part of the sentence which, he said, would assist in your support as well as meeting concerns about public protection. He referred to the intense publicity about this case and asked me to proceed only on the basis of the evidence and not any ill-judged, ill-informed or ignorant comments about it or you made outwith these proceedings. For the avoidance of doubt, I take no account of anything said outwith these proceedings.

In short, I have considered carefully all that is said in the CJSWR and all that has been said on your behalf by Mr Targowski, together with all other material. 

Having regard to the whole circumstances of the case, in particular the gravity of the charges, only a custodial sentence is appropriate. It is necessary to punish you and to seek to deter you and others from behaving in this way and in particular to protect the public from you.    

Having considered the pattern of offending, the gravity of your crimes and the insights in the various reports, I consider that the question of how best to protect the public arises. I am concerned to ensure that the public is adequately protected against serious harm from you when you are released from prison. It is plain that you present a particularly significant risk to any woman with whom you form a relationship.

Having reflected carefully on all of the circumstances, in my judgement the normal period of licence would not be enough to protect the public from serious harm from you. Accordingly I consider that the custodial sentence in your case should be by way of an extended sentence.

In the circumstances, I impose the following sentence: 

On charges 1 and 3 taken together, I sentence you to a cumulo extended sentence of 11 years with a custodial term of 8 years and an extension period of 3 years for the duration of which you will be under licence on conditions fixed by the Scottish Ministers. If during this extension period you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence it may be revoked by the Scottish Ministers and you may be returned to custody for a further period. Sentence is backdated to 24 January 2023 when you were remanded in custody. 

As a consequence you will be subject to notification requirements indefinitely.”