Children and domestic violence

Pollack (1950) concluded that women were as criminal as men, the lack of equality in prosecution and punishment of both sexes was due to leniency and favourable treatment of women. The idea of women as 'the fairer sex' has led to positive discrimination. This can be shown in conviction rates for indictable offences with 20% of men convicted, but only 5% of women receiving a custodial sentence. Sexual offences against children and domestic violence adversely affect the gender ratio as are predominantly carried out by men.

Throughout the 1980's women's rates of immediate sentencing grew disproportionately to that of men's with the female prison population increasing over 100% (Heidensohn). There are examples of lenient treatment before reaching the criminal justice system. It is a socially acknowledged fact that a woman stopped for a speeding violation or other minor traffic violation is considerably more likely to be released with a caution that a male stopped for a similar offence.

Modern policing may have an influencing effect on the gender imbalance; 'cop canteen culture' of masculinity, aggression and macho values could have a serious effect on the male: female ratio presented to the courts as the modern police service operate with wide use of discretion. If considerably more women are afforded this use of discretion this will adversely affect the number and gender composition reaching the courts for trial.

The extent to which the police service affects the gender ratio in the criminal justice system is unknown and it is highly improbable successful research could be conducted in this area. As well as favourable treatment of women due to chivalry and cop culture, it is well documented that police treatment of prostitutes is harsh beyond the crime of soliciting. Women are also subject in some cases to double discrimination. In Black Women's Experiences of Criminal Justice, Chigwada-Bailey notes that there is a need for concern in the sentencing of black women.

She states that women appear before courts less frequently than men so are generally viewed as out of place in the criminal justice system, but that this doesn't appear to be the case with black women, where it may not be at all unusual for them to appear to be involved in criminal activity. The Ethnic Minorities Advisory Committee was established in the early 1990's to ensure fair and equal treatment of ethnic minorities, of which there has been some success, however black women are still being treated unfairly due to gender and ethnicity.

The Home Office report 'Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2002' firmly assumes the view that women suffer positive discrimination in the criminal justice system reporting that: Women are more likely than men to be discharged or given a community sentence for indictable offences and are less likely to be fined or sentenced to custody. Women sentenced to custody receive shorter sentences on average than men. This is an acknowledgement from the Home Office that there is unequal treatment between the genders throughout the criminal justice system.

Throughout the report inclusion of statistics that demonstrate the favourable treatment of women are evident. Ngaire Naffine explores the idea in Criminal Justice Matters (Issue 53, Autumn 2003) that the law has always been gendered in favour of men, not that the law provides loopholes and lessened sentences for men, but that the law has revolved around male oriented crimes, potentially ignoring women as offenders and as victims. Sexual violence by men against women is a prime example of this.

There are laws in place against sexual violence but they remain notoriously ineffective whilst being proscribed under a patriarchal legal system. Anti-social male behaviours have always been the focus of the police service and other agents of the criminal justice system, with apparent ignorance of women's anti-social patterns and behaviours. Girl gang research has gained prominence over the last twenty years as it has become apparent through such research that the gang warfare conducted in girl gangs is considerably more violent than those actions of male gangs.

Through research into the criminal justice system and the information provided in this essay, there appears definite gender imbalance at all stages through the criminal justice system. Cop culture and the chivalry hypothesis reducing the number of women being recorded in the criminal justice system to the more lenient treatment of women and individualised case sentencing and treatments in the courts, women appear to be gifted more leniency and lesser sentences including a higher chance of being given community sentences than men.

However, there is an ongoing problem of women's powerlessness due to an apparent invisibility in terms of research and policy making and somewhat harsher treatments of prostitutes by the police service and harsher judgements by society. Upon conviction of similar offences, women are perceived 'more criminal' then men and in serious cases receive considerable more media attention. Women are also subject to double discrimination due to race, class, age, status and being a woman (Gelsthorpe 1989).

Systems are in place to improve equality between race, class, status etc and appear to be improving the criminal justice systems. At all levels greater levels of education are being administered to ensure equality and due to overwhelming levels of research data collected and collated the gender debate is moving to the forefront as an important discussion and policy making issue to remove gender blindness and ensure equality in all stages of the criminal justice system for men and women.

It is a proven fact that women do commit less crimes and the majority of crimes are less serious and less professional than those committed by men, this however, does not make such crimes and the offenders responsible less important. Gender equality is paramount to ensure all crimes and their offenders are treated the same within the legal system and by society to create a clear division between those who break the law and those who don't, irrespective of gender, race, class, status etc.  

Bibliography

Internet 1. http://www. homeoffice. gov. uk/rds/pdfs2/s95women02. pdf Accessed 16 August 2005. Books 1. Chigwada-Bailey, R. (2003), Black Women's Experiences of Criminal Justice, Winchester: Waterside Press. 2. Dobash, R. , Dobash, R. and Noaks, L. (1995) Gender and Crime, Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 3. Walklate, S. (1995) Gender and Crime An Introduction, Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall/ Harvester Wheatsheaf. 4. Walklate, S. (2001) Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice, Devon: Willan Publishing.