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Prisoners: Gender Balance

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the reasons for the imbalance in the numbers of men and women in prison; and, if so, whether there is any evidence of sexual discrimination in the judicial system. [HL7197]

The Government continue to monitor and publish criminal justice statistics by gender. Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2003 found that women are more likely than men to be discharged or given community sentences for indictable offences, and that women sentenced to custody receive shorter sentences than men. However, the women’s prison population has more than doubled over the past 10 years, with one study suggesting that this is because the sentencing of women has become more severe (Hedderman, Why are women being sentenced to custody?, 2004).

The Government have commissioned further work, which will provide better information on women and the judicial system, including the Courts Survey, which will examine key drivers behind sentencing decisions. The research will include analysis of how courts deal with female offenders, drawing any significant differences across groups. Preliminary findings are expected in summer 2007. The Government have also commissioned Baroness Jean Corston to look at the issues affecting women with particular vulnerabilities who are dealt with by the criminal justice system. Baroness Corston’s report and recommendations are due in December 2006.