Equality under the Law: are women offenders treated more leniently than men?


In my last post, I expressed astonishment at the apparently lenient, non-custodial sentence imposed on a women who attacked a man with a champagne bottle causing permanent facial scarring. I suggest in the post that a man attacking a woman in this way would receive an immediate and significant jail sentence. Following this sorry incident, I decided to investigate briefly the facts surrounding sentencing of men and women offenders in the UK.

I very quickly came across a debate in the House of Commons on the issue of gender discrimination in sentencing. As I prefer to quote primary sources wherever possible, rather than rhetoric and hearsay, the following link will take you directly to the official transcript of the debate in Hansard: Sentencing Female Offenders. The same transcript, but in a somewhat more readable form, can be found at They Work for You. In this debate, Philip Davies MP, presents statistical facts about the relative leniency of sentences imposed on women as opposed to men. He does so in the face of repeated attempts by others in the debate to undermine the statistics. The single recurring fact coming out of the debate, which is irrefutable, is that in every category and severity of crime, women receive shorter sentences and are more likely to be released early than men who commit the same offense. A more detailed summary and analysis of the debate can be found at Brightonmanplan (I know this is Men’s Group, but it is an accurate summary and I have already given you the link to Hansard for you to check the facts for yourself).

One thing I will add, is that Helen Osborne, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities , said towards the end of the debate (second page in Hansard, after the adjournment)  “What I have just said is that the sentencing framework and guidelines are gender-neutral: everyone is absolutely equal before the law.” Fantastic soundbite, but it doesn’t seem to match the outcomes.

What is the feminist view? In a fine example of Orwellian double speak, the Fawcett Society, in an article on women in the justice system, says Gender-proof all youth violence policy and strategy by encouraging all agencies involved in addressing youth violence to take a gendered approach to understanding needs” (my bold and I know I can be accused of taking it out of context, so here is a link to the full article if you would like to check it out). Going a step further, the Women’s Justice Taskforce seems to suggest that no women should be sentenced to jail and all women’s prison should be closed! A man slaps a woman and goes to jail, a women murders a man and doesn’t: so much for equality. Please forgive me if I continue to question the claim by feminists to be seeking equality for all.