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·         Heidensohn observes that gender differences are perhaps 'the most significant feature of recorded crime'. Most crime appears to be committed by males.

Official statistics show that:

·         Four out of five convicted offenders in England and Wales are male.

·         By the age of 40, 9% of females had a criminal conviction, as against 32% of males.

Among offenders, there are some significant gender differences. For example, official statistics show that:

·         A higher proportion of female than male offenders are convicted of property offences (except burglary) and of violence or sexual offences.

·         Males are more likely to repeat offences, to have longer criminal careers and to commit more serious crimes.

Such statistics raise three important questions:

·         Do women really commit fewer crimes, or are the figures an invalid picture of gender patterns of crime?

·         How can we explain why those women who do offend commit crimes?

·         Why do males commit more crimes than females?


·         Some sociologists argue that they underestimate the amount of female as against male offending. Two arguments have been put forward to support this view:

·         Typically female crimes such as shoplifting are less likely to be reported. It is less likely to get media attention than violent crimes usually committed by men.

·         Even when women's crime are reported, they are less likely to be prosecuted or if they are prosecuted, they are more likely to be let off likely.

The chivalry thesis

·         The thesis argues that most criminal justice agents, such as the police, are men and men are socialised to act in a 'chivalrous' way towards women.

·         The criminal justice system is thus more lenient with women and so their crimes are less likely to end up in official statistics. This gives an invalid picture that exaggerates the extent of gender differences in rates of offending.

·         Evidence from self-report studies suggests that female offenders are treated more leniently. Flood-Page et al found that, while only one in 11 female self-report offenders had been cautioned, the figure for males was over one in seven self-report offenders.

·         Women are also more likely than men to be cautioned rather than prosecuted. For example, The Ministry of Justice found that 49% of females recorded as offending received a caution in 2007, whereas for males the figure was only 30%.

Evidence against the chivalry thesis

·         Farrington and Morris'study of sentencing of 408 offences of theft in a magistrates' court found that women were not sentenced more leniently for comparable offences.

·         If women appear to be treated more leniently, it may simply be because their offences are less serious. Furthermore, women offenders are less likely to show remorse, and this may help to explain why they are more likely to receive a caution instead


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