Are women really discriminated against by the justice system?

Shipley MP Philip Davies says women are not discriminated against in the justice system.
Shipley MP Philip Davies says women are not discriminated against in the justice system.
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Last week Vicky Pryce said that she believed prison wasn’t working for women. Here, Shipley’s Conservative MP Philip Davies explains why he disagrees.

READING The Yorkshire Post recently, I came across an interview with Vicky Pryce, who was sentenced to seven months for accepting points on her licence on behalf of her estranged husband, the former Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne.

I read her book about the time she spent in custody and found that it perpetuated many of the myths associated with the whole issue of female offenders. It seems from this recent interview that this is something she is clearly carrying on pursuing.

Nine weeks spent in prison before being released a quarter of the way through her sentence seems to have given Ms Pryce the impression that she is somehow an expert on the whole subject. In her interview in this paper she said “... for many prisoners, particularly women, custodial sentences don’t make any sense.”

In her book she maintains this theme, saying: “There is a strong argument that most women should not be in prison at all.” I feel the need to introduce some reality into the dreamland in which she, and some other people, clearly live. Never mind the fact that for every one woman in prison I can show you 20 men who are incarcerated – who are all these women it apparently makes no sense to have in prison?

Looking at snapshot prison population figures by offence to assist – is it those who have committed murder, manslaughter, wounding, rape or gross indecency with children?

Or the robbers, those who repeatedly burgle people’s homes, the drug dealers, arsonists, benefit cheats or those jailed for violent disorder? Most people would want these women in prison.

Around 80 per cent of serving female prisoners have been sentenced to more than six months in prison, while 40 per cent are doing four years or more.

Ms Pryce also perpetuates one of the other common female offender myths by saying in her book: “Britain is poorly served by an anachronistic, archaic network of male judges who send far too many women to prison”.

Just for the record, it is judges and magistrates who send people to prison, in almost equal numbers. So Ms Pryce’s vision of nasty male judges sending all these poor defenceless women to prison is just that – a vision.

I had a very interesting time in Bradford Crown Court recently witnessing the sentencing of various different people and there was no question of women being sent to prison when men were not.

In fact, the evidence is that the exact opposite happens. The House of Commons Library analysed Ministry of Justice figures and concluded that: “For each offence group a higher proportion of males pleading guilty were sentenced to immediate custody than females.” The Ministry of Justice figures show that 44.9 per cent of men went straight to prison for committing a burglary compared to 26 per cent of women.

Figures I have also obtained covering West Yorkshire show that this is a consistent pattern. For example, for robberies the imprisonment rate in 2012 was 70 per cent for men and only 50 per cent for women.

I believe that contributions to the whole debate by people like Vicky Pryce are extremely unhelpful as they are not based on all the evidence, but rather designed to encourage a politically correct agenda to allow the continued special treatment of women offenders.

I would urge people to be wary of the whole “equality – but only when it suits” movement, which seeks to persuade people that the fact that less than five per cent of the entire prison population is female somehow must mean that women are being discriminated against in the justice system, and that most of them should not be in prison in the first place.

This not only defies all the statistical facts but it defies common sense, too.