It’s known that if male criminals were treated as leniently as female criminals in sentencing terms, five out of six men in British prisons wouldn’t be there. How much of this discrepancy results from discretion exercised by judges and magistrates, and how much results from sentencing guidelines, is a matter of some debate.
Our thanks to Paul for pointing us towards a short piece in the Telegraph from September 2010. It includes this:
Female criminals are more likely to have mental health or educational difficulties and to have parenting responsibilities, while a lower proportion will have committed violent crimes than men, according to new guidelines.
Judges ought to “bear these matters in mind” when passing sentence, according to the Equal Treatment Bench Book, published by the Judicial Studies Board (JSB).
Why should parenting responsibilities be taken into account? Women are being told that they can commit serious offences without serving prison sentences, solely because they’re mothers. It may be true that women are more likely than to have mental health or educational difficulties, but given that so many male criminals have these difficulties, I’d wager the difference isn’t significant. And what does it matter that fewer women than men commit violent crimes? Why should that be borne in mind when making individual sentencing decisions?
It’s a cornerstone of natural justice that each case is taken on its merits. Thanks to women such as Baroness Hale and Dame Laura Cox, it’s not a cornerstone of British justice. And it hasn’t been for a very long time.