The criminal justice system is condemned as an institutionally sexist operation that lets down female victims, fails to help women offenders out of a cycle of crime and prevents professionals reaching the top jobs. A five-year investigation by the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, found that discrimination against women pervades the system in England and Wales at all levels, from the police forces where women officers are still forced to wear men’s uniforms to the way frontline staff doubt the credibility of victims reporting rape and domestic violence, with a gap seen between equality policy and its implementation.
Self-harm among women in custody, which Fawcett said was a product of the effects of being in a system designed for men, increased by 48% between 2003 and 2007, with women committing around half of all self-harm incidents, despite representing only 5% of the total prison population. At the women-only HMP Styal the number of incidents of self-harm have risen from 376 to 1,324 in the last five years, according to figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Last night justice minister Maria Eagle said: “While we recognise the challenges we face we reject the central tenet of this report. … We have long recognised the specific needs of women in the criminal justice system… But there is still more to be done and the government equality bill contains positive action measures.”
Shock horror, New Labour acts like conservatives. Anyway Fawcett Society report here
• In 2008, only 12 percent of police officers at Chief Inspector grade and above were women; less than a quarter of prison governors were female and less than one in four prison officers were women. (4)
• Only 15.9 percent of partners in the UK’s ten largest law firms were women in 2008 and there were only 42 female compared to 479 male silks. The number of female applicants for Queen’s Counsel was at its lowest level for ten years. (5)
• In 2008, just over 10 percent of the 109 High Court Judges were women and just 3 out of the 37 Lord Justices of Appeal were women. There is only one female law lord. (6) In contrast, the Supreme Court of Canada is 44 percent female and the High Court of Australia is 43 percent female.
Female victims of crime
• An estimated 3 million women across the UK experience rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, forced marriage, trafficking, or other forms of violence each year.
• Only 15 percent of serious sexual offences against adults are reported to the police and of the rape offences that are reported only 6.5 percent result in conviction.
• One in four people still believe that a woman is partially responsible for being raped if she is drunk and one in three think she is partially responsible if she flirted heavily with the man beforehand. (7)
• Over a quarter of local authorities across Britain have no specialised VAW support services. (8)
• On 3 April 2009, the female prison population stood at 4,309 compared to a mid-year female prison population of 2,672 in 1997. Population projections released by the Ministry of Justice in January, indicate at best the female prison population may decrease by 200 by 2015, at worst it will increase to 5,100. (9)
• Too many women are being imprisoned for short sentences for non-violent crime, including the non-payment of fines and television licences. In 2007, 63.3 percent of women were sentenced to sentences of six months or less.
• Imprisoning mothers affects children too – almost 18,000 children are separated from their mothers each year. Between April 2005 and July 2008, 283 children were born to women in prison.
• Prison does not address the causes of women’s offending. More than one in three have histories of sexual abuse and over half have been the victims of domestic abuse.