Is the Criminal Justice System biased towards or against women?
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Is the Criminal Justice System biased towards or against women?






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Is the Criminal Justice System biased towards or against women? Is the Criminal Justice System biased towards or against women? Presentation Transcript

  • 1 Official crime figures and the relationship between gender and the Criminal Justice System • 1 Do women really commit fewer crimes than men or are the figures misleading? • 2 How do women fare once they are processed by the Criminal Justice System? Is it biased towards or against women?
  • 2 Sex Blind • In theory at least the vast majority of laws are sex blind – the possibility of being charged, or the type of offence for which you are being charged, does not depend on your sex • There are a handful of gendered laws e.g. only men can be convicted of rape; only women can be convicted of soliciting as prostitutes • However so few crimes come into these categories that they make little difference to the overall stats
  • 3 Chivalry Thesis • Chivalry = gallantry, courtesy/politeness to women • Idea which asserts that women are let off relatively lightly (leniently) by the predominantly male police, judges, magistrates etc in the criminal justice system
  • 4 Evidence for Chivalry Thesis • There are two sources of evidence which support the Chivalry Thesis: • ONE Self-report studies • give some indication of amount of unreported crime and chances that different groups have of escaping discovery and prosecution for their offences
  • 5 Directly Observed Crime • Buckle & Farrington (1984) carried out a small- scale observational study of shoplifting in a British department store in southeast England in 1981 • Shoplifting is one crime where numbers of female offenders nearly match numbers of male offenders in the official stats • This study found 2.8% of 142 males observed shoplifted, but only 1.4% of the 361 females did so
  • 6 Evidence for Chivalry Thesis 1 ONE Self Report Studies • Graham & Bowling (1995) 1,721 14-25 yr olds in England and Wales. Found males admitted more offences but the differences were not as great as those shown in official statistics e.g. • 55% of males and 31% of women admitted having committed any offence • 28% of men and 12% of women admitted committing an offence in the last 12 months • In official stats around 4 times as many men as women are convicted in a typical 12 month period
  • 7 Evidence for Chivalry Thesis 2 TWO Cautioning of Offenders • Official statistics show evidence that female suspects are more likely than male suspects to be cautioned rather than prosecuted • 2007: • males recorded as offending: 30% cautioned • females recorded as offending: 49% cautioned
  • 8 AO2 EVALUATION • Graham & Bowling (1995) study found that females less likely than men to be involved in more serious offences • The seriousness of the offence could thus explain the lower proportions of females among the convicted and cautioned than among self-reported offenders – rather than the leniency in the Criminal Justice System
  • 9 Evidence against Chivalry Thesis • There is also some evidence to suggest that the Chivalry Thesis has no basis
  • 10 Criminal justice as biased against women • Some argue that women are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than men • There is evidence to suggest that male offenders are sometimes treated more sympathetically than their female victims especially in rape trials
  • 11 Carol Smart (1989) Argues that rape trials celebrate male sexual need (i.e. not their fault) e.g. ‘Women who say no do not always mean no…If she doesn’t want it she only has to keep her legs shut’ Judge Wild 1982 It is the height of imprudence for any girl to hitch-hike at night…She is in the true sense asking for it Judge Bertrand Richards 1982
  • 12 Sandra Walklate (2001) • Argues that in effect it is the female victim rather than the male suspect who ends up on trial • Women have to establish their respectability if their evidence it to be believed • Rape trials are biased to the male view – men become unable to restrain their sexual desires once women give them the slightest indication that they may be available for sex
  • 13 Double Standards in Criminal Justice • Frances Heidensohn (1985) argues that women are treated more harshly when they deviate from societal norms of female sexuality and femininity • Sexually promiscuous girls are more likely to be taken into care than similar boys • On the other hands courts are often reluctant to imprison mothers with young children
  • 14 Pat Carlen (1997) • The majority of women who go to prison in England, Wales and Scotland are less likely to be sentenced for the seriousness of their crimes and more according to the court’s assessment of them as wives, mothers and daughters.
  • 15 British Criminal Justice System • If Heidensohn and Carlen are right then the British criminal justice system is highly GENDERED, that is it’s decisions are at least partly based on the sex and gender characteristics (as well as the class and ethnicity) of those it deals with. As such the idea of equality before the law is an illusion • Perhaps women are simply judged more on being ‘sad, bad or mad’ than on the crimes they have actually committed (so called ‘Double Deviance’ – judged on both their crime and their inability to live up to the female gender script (appropriate societal behaviour for a woman or mother)
  • 16 Synoptic Link: Education See p284 in book Over the past 20 years there has been a huge shift in the comparative success rates of boys and girls – girls now outperform boys in every subject and are better behaved in the classroom. Some sociologists have argued that the reason for this is a generalised CRISIS OF MASCULINITY experienced by young men.
  • Assess sociological explanations of the different crime rates of men and women