Do Men Get a Fair Sentence?
Expelling Myths About Sexism in the Judicial System
Let me start this blog by saying that there is no way I can categorically, 100% prove that men and woman are treated differently in the eyes of the court. There are too many differing factors that can make one case, while appearing similar, be very different to another. The basis of this exploratory article comes from a debate that Philip Davies MP bought to the House of Commons where he exposes the two common myths surrounding court sentencing.
First Myth: Women are very likely to be sent to prison and are more likely than men to be given a custodial sentence.
According to womeninprison.org.uk, there were 3,935 females in prison as of 13th July 2015. They equate to less than 5% of the 84,731 people in British prisons at the beginning of 2015. It could be argued that females commit less crime, or minor crimes such as theft, which don’t require a custodial sentence. Using the House of Commons Library, which provides independent information and research to Members of Parliament, Davies found statistics that show that annually, between 1999 and 2009, a “higher proportion of men are given a sentence of immediate custody than women, irrespective of age of offender (juveniles, young adults or adult) and type of court (magistrates or Crown).”
Further evidence was supplied in 2010 by Mr. Davies, which stated that “of sentenced first time offenders (7,320 females and 25,936 males), a greater percentage of males were sentenced to immediate custody than females (29% compared with 17%), which has been the case in each year since 2005.” In order to present you with more accurate statistics I needed to find more up to date research. With this in mind, I found the Ministry of Justice’s ‘Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013’. This extensive report showed that, whilst the amount of males being given an immediate sentence had gone down, they were still sent immediately to jail whilst female offenders were more likely to be given a suspended sentence. Further to this, more males than females would be remanded in custody to await trial rather than be given bail.
One of the most shocking examples of this is the story of Rebecca Bernard. Despite having 51 previous convictions of violent crimes and threatening behaviour, running an all girl gang that terrorised their town and having two ASBOs for making her elderly neighbour’s life a misery, she walked free from court after attacking two men. Why? Because she was a ‘caring mother’. A quick search shows numerous stories following the same theme whilst, after 30 minutes searching, I found only one case of a man who had been granted a suspended sentence due to being a father. Robert Houseman broke Joshua Cockburn’s leg after hitting it with a garden fork between ‘six to fifteen times’. The judge advised that the only reason he was not going to court is that he was the sole carer of his four year old.
Second Myth: Most women are in prison for petty or non violent offences, and are serving shorter sentences. Many campaigners say that far too many women are in prison and should not be there, instead serving their sentences in the community.
This myth was brought to light after Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, was quoted in The Guardian in 2007 as saying that: “For women who offend, prison simply doesn’t work. It is time to end the use of traditional prisons for women”. All the evidence I’ve found confirms that most females are in for non violent crimes but, if Philip’s statistics are to be taken as correct (as I can’t locate an accurate breakdown of the reasons females are in prison), in 2012:
211 females are in for murder
135 for manslaughter/attempted homicide 352 for wounding
142 for serious assault or other acts of violence 58 for cruelty to children
83 for rape, gross indecency with children or other sexual offences 398 drug dealers
151 for burglary
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There will be those among you, myself included, that will believe that these violent offenders deserve to be in prison whilst perhaps those who commit non-violent crimes such as theft could be given lesser sentences. However, this has to apply equally to both sexes. For instance, if we take those serving less than six months as an example of those who shouldn’t be in prison then you could release 5,442 women... but you would also have to release the 51,588 males too.
After weeks of researching and trying to gather concrete evidence of discrimination against either gender, whether female or male, I keep drawing blanks. As with all of our posts, we are not asking for men to get special treatment, we want equality. We don’t think that anyone should be spared jail for a violent crime whether parents or not (although it is important to note that children are rarely taken into consideration when sentencing a male).
To make matters worse, not only are men more likely to go to jail than woman, but when they are there, they are stripped of everything that gives them self esteem and a sense of identity. Read our blog ‘Men Don’t Need Self Esteem Anyway’ to learn a bit more about how this happens.