Statistics available for year 2010/11 indicate 1,360,451 recorded arrests in England and Wales, 1,140,497 males and 219,954 females, a proportion of females of 16.2%. Of the total, 210,683 were juveniles, with a female proportion of 18.3%. However, most of the statistics referred to in this Briefing Paper relate to calendar year 2011, and in some cases totals are inconsistent with the year 2010/11 totals. Compare, for instance, the 219,954 females recorded as arrested in 2010/11 with the much higher 297,938 females actually sentenced in year 2011.
During year 2011, 1,246,320 persons were sentenced for all offences, 948,382 males and 297,938 females, a female proportion of 23.9%. The female proportion sentenced for indictable offences was 14.3% and for summary offences was 27.4%, this suggesting that of all offences committed by females, a larger proportion are in the summary category, than in the case of males. For instance, of those appearing before magistrates’ courts for summary offences, 27.0% were female, but only 14.4% for indictable offences.
Of those persons sentenced to immediate custody. 7.9% were female, 8.2% in respect of indictable offences and 6.1% for summary offences. Only 4.5% of those in prison (in February 2013) were female.
There is a perception that the criminal justice system (CJS) is more lenient, generally, to females than to males. Not only are more males proportionally given custodial sentences, but the average sentence given to them of 18 months is 50% higher than that for females of 12 months. And the average time actually served in prison by males of 9.5 months is similarly higher than the 5.8 months for females [statistics based on prison discharges in period Oct-Dec 2011]. Moreover, prison conditions are perceived to be more kind to females than to males, not only because of fewer numbers but also that they are being held in conditions and within regimes “that meet their gender specific needs and which facilitate their successful resettlement”. [Prison Service Order 4800 ‘Women Prisoners’]
Section 95 (2012)
Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires the Government to publish statistical data regularly to assess whether any discrimination exists in how the CJS treats people based on gender. A publication Women and the criminal justice system relating to this requirement was published by the Ministry of Justice in autumn 2012, and is the source for the bulk of statistics used in this Briefing Paper, and is referred to as Source1 in the Paper. Such statistics are used by policy makers, the agencies who comprise the CJS and others, to monitor the differences between females and males, and to highlight areas where practitioners and others may wish to undertake more in-depth analysis. According to the Ministry of Justice, the identification of differences should not [necessarily] be equated with discrimination as
there are many reasons why apparent disparities may exist.
Other sources used in this Briefing Paper include British Crime Surveys, specific Government publications including ‘offender management statistics’, Ministry of Justice
PARITY Men and Women and the Criminal Justice System September 2013 statistics on ‘prisons and probation’, and responses to Freedom of Information requests to the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service. Most sources relate to year 2011. However, as indicated above, some are for years 2010/11 or 2011/12 and totals for these years may be inconsistent with totals given for calendar year 2011. Indeed, some data for year 2011 is not always consistent with other data given for that year.
A summary of key statistics identified is given in Appendix 1. Information provided by the Ministry of Justice in response to a Freedom of Information request relating to prisoners is given in full in Appendix 2. A summary of the parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall on the 16 October 2012 on men and women in the Criminal Justice System is given in Appendix 3. A full report of the debate can be found in Hansard in cols 32WH to 42WH for the 16 October 2012.
Although the statistics used as sources for this Briefing Paper suggest a general picture of what happens to men and women encountering the Criminal Justice System (CJS), they are essentially based on totals and averages and thus cannot reflect what happens to individuals and to some extent to cohorts.
They do suggest, however, that in terms of the more severe sentencing, female offenders given immediate custody, and both average sentence length and average actual time served, are each substantially less in time for female than for male offenders. Such averages may, of course, reflect the fact that male offenders are both more numerous than female offenders and more of them commit more serious offences (for instance, sexual offences).
In 2011, females accounted for 23.7% (Table 4.2.2) of all cautions issued, and a similar proportion of all Penalty Notices (PNs) issued (Fig 4.2.3).
Of those persons proceeded against in magistrates’ courts, females accounted for a similar proportion (23.6%), 14.4% in respect of indictable offences and 27.0% of summary offences (Table 4.3.1). Similar proportions applied to females subsequently sentenced in all courts, 23.9%, 14.3% and 27.4% respectively (Table 4.3.3).
Average sentence lengths were similar for both sexes for each of the sentence band lengths, but resulted in an overall higher average length for all sentences for male prisoners of 18.0 months compared to 12 months for female prisoners. The average actual times served were approximately about half of the average sentences given for both sexes, 9.5 months for males and 5.8 months for females. (Table 4.4.3).
Females accounted for 21.6% of all persons acquitted in all courts. Of those persons sentenced, females accounted for 23.7% of those discharged (Table 4.3.8), 28.4% of those fined (Table 4.3.2), 16.5% of those given a community sentence (Table 4.3.3), 15.5% of those given a suspended sentence (Table 4.3.4), and 7.9% of those sentenced to immediate custody (Table 4.3.5) .
Of males sentenced to immediate custody, 27.2% were in respect of indictable offences compared to 14.7% for females (Table 4.3.5).
The average longest custodial sentences for females were for sexual offences (32.4 months), drug offences (30.5 months), robbery (28.1 months), and criminal damage (25.8 months). For males, the average longest sentences were for sexual offences (53.4 months), burglary (18.6 months), VAP (18.5 months), and criminal damage (17.9 months). (Table 4.4.2).
Overall in magistrates’ courts in 2011, it seems that parity of treatment of female and male offenders applied generally, although a higher proportion of female offenders were fined (62.7% of all female offenders compared to 47.7% of all males) but a lower proportion given immediate custody (1.2% compared to 3.4% for males). (Table 4.3.8). It is more difficult to discern from the statistics whether similar, or less, parity also applied in the Crown courts for the more serious indictable offences.
It is difficult to relate such different proportions with any pattern of possible unequal treatment of men and women sentenced in the Crown courts, without more information about the outcomes of individual court cases. Females accounted in 2011 for 11.3% of all persons in Crown court proceedings (Table 4.3.7). Yet only 6.5% females were sentenced to immediate custody, and only 4.7% females were in the prison system in 2011 (Table 4.4.1). Such under-representation is surely worthy of serious research.
The Freedom of Information response from the Ministry of Justice repeated in full in Appendix 2 states (page 3) that “prison rules apply equally to male and female offenders”. This statement is rather undermined by the additional rules on gender specific needs contained in PSO 4800, which provide, in some important respects, for the more humane treatment of female prisoners than male.
The proposed changes to the ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP)’ scheme, due to be introduced this autumn, but only in adult male prisons, are likely to further widen differences in treatment of male and female prisoners, unless also applied to women’s prisoners.
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