Sentencing Gender? Investigating the Presence of Gender Disparities in Crown Court Sentences
We explore the presence of gender sentencing disparities using large samples of assault, burglary and drugs offences from the Crown Court Sentencing Survey. We find significantly harsher sentences imposed on male offenders even after controlling for most case characteristics, including mitigating factors such as ‘caring responsibilities’. Specifically, the odds ratios of receiving a custodial sentence for offences of assault, burglary and drugs committed by a man as opposed to a woman are 2.84, 1.89 and 2.72. To put it in context, with the exception of offences ‘with intent to commit serious harm’, the gender effect was stronger than any other ‘harm and culpability’ factor for offences of assault. These disparities do not seem to stem primarily from differential interpretations of offender dangerousness. It is possible that they might be due to lower rates of reoffending amongst female offenders, or to the higher punitive effect of custodial sentences on women. What seems clear is that sentencing is not gender neutral. If gender-specific sentencing guidelines are to be developed in the future it would be important that the noted disparities are taken in consideration.