Sophie Walker – proud to be a feminist zealot
Ok, that title was rather like “Free Beer”. Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, does not have a criminal record – as far as I am aware. The title refers to Ms Walker’s record in making comments about the criminal justice system. “Desperately inaccurate” summarises it adequately, as we shall see.
Ms Walker is standing for election as MP in Shipley. Her reason for doing so is specifically to oppose the incumbent MP, Philip Davies. The good denizens of Shipley are, no doubt, thrilled to be largely irrelevant to her motivation. (No, they aren’t – even the local feminists are very unthrilled).
In 2016 Mr Davies had the temerity to make a speech stating that men are treated more harshly in the criminal justice system than women. This will not be news to avid readers of this blog (I have presented the case here and here, and especially, here). Mr Davies’s speech was, being correct, very Incorrect indeed. He accused feminist zealots of wanting to have their cake and eat it too. A rash of selfies of young women eating cake appeared on social media. As political commentary goes, this left something to be desired. Perhaps sensing this, a number of the sisterhood had articles published in the main stream press telling Mr Davies, and the world, in no uncertain terms, that he had it all wrong. Amongst these was the Baroness Corston, who has a reputation for knowing a thing or two about matters punitive and gendered.
Well, the subject matter being what it was, and with my old pal the Baroness being in the fight, yours truly felt obliged to throw in his three ha’pence worth too. Imagine my amazement when everything Mr Davies said turned out to be factually correct, whilst the good Baroness’s contrary remarks were either factually wrong or misleading – generally the former. Well, no amazement at all, of course.
Sophie Walker was another of the sisterhood who waded into print to accuse Mr Davies of getting it all wrong (Guardian, 12th August 2016, MPs such as Philip Davies make me proud to be a feminist zealot ). His “ignorance”, she wrote, “about the way our legal system is stacked against women is extraordinary”. Ah, but it turns out yet again that the basis of Mr Davies’s Incorrectness was, in fact, completely correct, whilst Ms Walker’s ever so Correct criticisms are shamefully incorrect. I hope that’s clear. It will be. Read on.
Not absolutely everything Ms Walker wrote in her article is wrong. Here is one thing she got right,
The UK’s prison population is largely made up of men.
Indeed. 95.5% of it.
But here are the substantive remarks written by Ms Walker which require examination,
- Women are significantly less likely to commit the kind of violent offences that attract custodial sentences
- In the UK women are more likely than men to be imprisoned for non-violent offences
- In the UK women are more likely than men to be sent to prison for their first offence
- In the UK women are much more likely than men to be victims of crime
- Prosecution rates for sexual violence against women and girls are depressingly low
- Cuts to legal aid leave women, far more likely than men to be in low-paying jobs, with no recourse to affordable justice
I examine these claims in turn, using the following sources of data,
- Ref.1: Ministry of Justice Sentencing Statistics 2009 Supplementary Tables
- Ref.2: Ministry of Justice Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013
- Ref.3: Office for National Statistics Focus on Violent Crime 2015
- Ref.4: Office for National Statistics, Crime in England & Wales, year ending March 2016 – Annual trend and demographic tables
Women are significantly less likely to commit the kind of violent offences that attract custodial sentences.
That is a true statement, but irrelevant to Davies’s claims that men are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system. When women do commit violent offences, they are sentenced more leniently than men committing the same category of violent offence. The statistical picture is provided by Figure 1 (taken from Ref.2, Figure 7.04). It shows that men convicted of actual bodily harm (ABH) are more than twice as likely to go to prison as women, whilst women are nearly twice as likely to receive a community sentence.
Figure 1 (from Ref.2) click to enlarge
In the UK women are more likely than men to be imprisoned for non-violent offences
This is the reverse of the truth. Figure 2 shows the ratio of the percentage of convicted men sent to prison to the percentage of convicted women sent to prison in all the major crime categories. Men are far more likely to be sent to prison for any offence category except drug offences. Over all offences, convicted men are about 3 times more likely to be imprisoned than convicted women. Considering the more serious indictable offences only, men are about twice as likely to be imprisoned as women.
Figure 2 (data from ref.1) click to enlarge
In the UK women are more likely than men to be sent to prison for their first offence
False. The opposite is true. Figure 3 shows that men are roughly twice as likely to be sent to prison for a first offence as women, whilst women are roughly twice as likely as men to be awarded a conditional discharge.
Figure 3 (from Ref.2) click to enlarge
In the UK women are much more likely than men to be victims of crime
Men are roughly twice as likely to be victims of homicide as women (Figure 4).
Men are roughly twice as likely as women to be victims of violent crimes short of homicide (Figure 5)
Considering all crime categories together, there is little difference between the rate of crimes against men and women (Figure 6).
Figure 4 (data from Ref.3) click to enlarge
Figure 5 (data from Ref.3 Appendix table 1.01) click to enlarge
Figure 6: Percentage of People Victims of All Crime Categories (Ref.4, Table D1)
Prosecution rates for sexual violence against women and girls are depressingly low.
The prosecution rates for sexual violence against men and boys are lower still. For rape of an adult man, only 1% of recorded rapes result in a conviction. Not more than ~5% of recorded crimes against males result in convictions in any of the sexual offence categories, including the rape of boys. The corresponding figures for women and girls are 6% and 9% respectively (detailed data breakdown here).
Cuts to legal aid leave women, far more likely than men to be in low-paying jobs, with no recourse to affordable justice.
This is the opposite of the truth, and displays perhaps most emphatically of all Ms Walker’s untruths just how divorced she is from reality. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act withdrew legal aid funding from most Civil Court cases. It came into force in April 2013. The impact of the change in the proportion of legal aid awards made to men and women in private Family Law cases is as shown in Figure 7 below.
Prior to LASPO, women received 60% of the legal aid. After LASPO women received 85% of legal aid.
Figure 7 (details here) click to enlarge
Conclusion: All Ms Walker’s statements are false or misleading. Most are the reverse of the facts.
More myths about women in the criminal justice system are debunked here. Never was a subject so riddled with falsity.
I close by quoting Ms Walker’s own words,
Is our democracy so broken that these kinds of assertions can be made by someone who is supposed to be upholding it?