Is there leniency for female sexual offenders in sentencing decisions?
Beeby, Amy Therese
Current prevalence rates indicate that females are responsible for approximately 4%-5% of all sexual offences. Researchers examining court and sentencing outcomes for female sexual offenders (FSOs) have found that they may be treated more leniently relative to male sexual offenders (MSOs). That is, FSOs receive shorter sentences and more non-prison sentences than do MSOs, and FSOs are described by judges in a more sympathetic manner. Despite this common finding, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions about leniency because potential confounding factors that may impact on sentence outcomes have not been well controlled in previous studies. Here, we controlled for a number of underlying factors relevant to cases of female and male sexual offending and compared the sentencing outcomes for FSOs and MSOs. We also examined how judges characterised FSOs compared to MSOs during sentencing. Using the Westlaw New Zealand database, we identified 9 cases of female sexual offending and matched these cases to 9 cases of male sexual offending in terms of the type of sexual offending, the characteristics of the offending, victim factors, and the severity of the offence. We then obtained and coded the sentencing notes for each offender. We found no evidence of leniency bias towards FSOs in the way that they were characterised and sentenced in the New Zealand criminal justice system.
Advisor: Patterson, Tess; Hayne, Harlene; Gross, Julien
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychological Medicine
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: sexual offending; female sexual offending; sentencing; leniency; New Zealand
Research Type: Thesis