We presented Philip Davies, a Conservative MP, with a ‘Winston’ award on the strength of a contribution he made in a debate about gender bias in sentencing two years ago – here.
A valued donor/supporter has just posted the following comment on the piece we’ve just posted on the ‘Clean Break’ theatre company – this month’s ‘Gormless Women of the Month’. His comments take up the rest of this blog piece, and we thank him warmly for it:
Calling these women gormless is fair enough, but actually they are basically stupid and unconscionable liars. Here is what Philip Davies MP said in a debate in Westminster Hall on 16th October 2012. He is quoting the House of Commons Library, which is an unimpeachable source of truth:
“There is an old political maxim that if someone tells a lie often enough, people will believe that it is true. I can only conclude that has happened in this case. I heard the lie that women are more likely to be sent to prison than men and that they are treated much more harshly by the courts, and I was taken in by it. I presumed it was true, because I had heard it so often, and I thought it was an absolute outrage. I was so outraged by the inequality in sentencing that I decided to do some research into it. As many people know, I spend a lot of time researching matters to do with prisons, sentencing and justice, and I wanted to get to the bottom of why women were being treated so badly.
Imagine my surprise when, having looked at all the evidence, I found it was not the case that women are treated more harshly by the courts. The unequivocal evidence is that the courts treat women far more favourably than men when it comes to sentencing…. I will continue with the quote from the Library:
‘In 2009 58% of male offenders who entered a guilty plea for an indictable offence were given an immediate custodial sentence compared to 34% of women. For each offence group a higher proportion of males pleading guilty were sentenced to immediate custody than females.’
The Ministry of Justice’s publication, “Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System”, published in November 2010—it is produced to ensure there is no sex discrimination in the system—states:
‘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.’
People have had a briefing from the Prison Reform Trust, which tries to persuade them that women with no previous convictions are more likely to be sent to prison than men, but that is categorically not the case, as the Ministry of Justice’s own publication makes abundantly clear.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman for providing us with an opportunity to help him understand the issue. Women convicted of a first offence—the same offence as a man—are more likely to receive a custodial sentence. I do not think he has the figures for that.
Philip Davies: No, they are not. That is the whole point. For every category of offence, men are more likely to be sent to prison than women. According to the Ministry of Justice’s own publication, of first-time offenders, men are much more likely—not just slightly—to be sent to prison. That is a fact.
Jenny Chapman: May I explain again? I am talking about the first offence and the same offence. The hon. Gentleman has figures for first-time offending overall and for different categories of offence. However, if we take the same offence for men and for women—the first conviction—women are more likely to get a custodial sentence.
Philip Davies: No, they are not. For the benefit of the hon. Lady, I have every single category of offence. I have figures for the likelihood of men and women being sent to prison for exactly the same offence. What she is saying is simply not the case.
The Home Office undertook statistical research some years ago to try to ascertain the best comparison for similar situations. Home Office Research Study 170, “Understanding the sentencing of women”, edited by Carol Hedderman and Loraine Gelsthorpe, looked at 13,000 cases and concluded:
‘Women shoplifters were less likely than comparable males to receive a prison sentence…among repeat offenders women were less likely to receive a custodial sentence. Women first offenders were significantly less likely than equivalent men to receive a prison sentence for a drug offence’.
The Ministry of Justice publication I mentioned earlier also covers the issue of pre-sentence reports and their recommendations for sentences in the courts. It says:
‘In 2009, a lower proportion of women who had a pre-sentence report that recommended immediate custody went on to receive this sentence than men (83% compared with 90% for males). For all other sentence options recommended in pre-sentence reports (Suspended Sentence Order, all community sentences or fines), a higher proportion of males received custodial sentences than females.’
The entire debate can be read here.