Child Abuse

This article refers to physical child abuse: cruelty or neglect. Sexual abuse of children is addressed in Sexual Abuse and Rape.

Numbers of Convictions for Cruelty to, or Neglect of, Children (all data here is for England & Wales)

Data has been published for the absolute numbers of people convicted of “cruelty to, or neglect of, children” for year 2009. There is also indirect data for other years which allows estimates to be made.

Year 2009

Data is taken from MoJ “Table S5.1 Offenders convicted and sentenced at all courts” (Ref.1). The data has been archived off the gov.uk site http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/crime-justice/offenders/sentencing but the author has retained a copy. For the category “cruelty to, or neglect of, children” this Table gives,

Item Men Women
Total proceeded against 438 616
Total found guilty 267 451
Conditional Discharge 8 32
Community Sentences 82 199
Suspended Sentence 83 145
Immediate Custody 91 67

Thus, 69% more women than men were found guilty of cruelty to, or neglect of, children. More than twice as many women as men were given one of the lesser sentences (conditional discharge, community sentence or suspended sentence). However, 36% more men than women were sentenced to prison.

The above data alone does not conclusively demonstrate gender bias in sentencing. The more severe penalties awarded to men could be a reflection of the greater severity of their crimes. However, the clear gender bias in sentencing across all offences suggests that gender bias is the likely explanation (see, for example, http://mra-uk.co.uk/?p=215 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyWSjz_z6BE or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VoFdG4cSAM)

2009 Child Killing

Two other entries in MoJ “Table S5.1 Offenders convicted and sentenced at all courts” (Ref.1) are noteworthy as regards crimes against children. Firstly there was only one person tried for infanticide, which illustrates how very rarely infanticide is prosecuted. The offender was necessarily a woman since infanticide can, by definition, only be committed by a woman. She received a community order.  (Children under one year are by far the most at risk of being killed, at least one-third* of child killings being of under-ones. The data of http://mhrm.uk/wiki/killing-children/ implies, therefore, roughly 30 infanticides per year, and this is likely to be an under-estimate). *needs checking – subject to revision

The other noteworthy entry in MoJ “Table S5.1 Offenders convicted and sentenced at all courts” (Ref.1) occurs under “causing death of a child or vulnerable person”  for which 5 men were convicted and 8 women. This is against the general run of murder and manslaughter where far more men are convicted. My guess is that most child killing is tried under a charge of murder or manslaughter (or not tried at all in the case of infanticide).

Other Data on Severity of Sentencing for Child Cruelty or Neglect

The more severe sentencing of men indicated by the 2009 data, above, is confirmed, for example, by 2013 data. The following is copied from the Ministry of Justice report Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013, Ref.3.

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Child cruelty sentencing

Men convicted of cruelty to, or neglect of, children are more than twice as likely to be sent to prison as women, whilst women are more than twice as likely to receive a community sentence.

Other Years: Estimates of Convictions for Cruelty to, or Neglect of, Children

An estimate of the number of men and women convicted for cruelty to, of neglect of, children in years other than 2009 can be made based on the following Figure from the Ministry of Justice report Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013.

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Child cruelty as percentage of all VAP

This indicates that 1% of men convicted for violent offences were convicted for cruelty to, or neglect of, children, whilst 13% of women convicted for violent offences were convicted for cruelty to, or neglect of, children. There are, of course, far more men convicted of violent offences than women.

Data on the total number of men and women convicted for Violence Against the Person (VAP) are available, for example from this MoJ quarterly criminal justice statistics publication (Ref.2). VAP conviction data can be found in Table Q4a, “Offenders found guilty at all courts by sex and type of offence, 12 months ending June 2004 to 12 months ending June 2014”. By multiplying the VAP conviction data by 1% for men and by 13% for women I arrive at an estimate for the numbers of men and women convicted for cruelty to, or neglect of, children, see the graph below.

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Number of convictions for child cruelty

Attrition of Women through the Criminal Justice System

Since the above estimate has been based on VAP data, it is worth considering how VAP offences are processed. The relative attrition of the numbers of female and male offenders in their passage through the criminal justice system may be significant.

There are about 8 men convicted for VAP offences for every one woman convicted for VAP. Few people will be surprised that the commonest offence for which men are arrested is for VAP. More people will be surprised to learn that commonest offence for which women are arrested is also for VAP. In fact, a similar proportion of women who are arrested are arrested for VAP as for men – see Figure 4.02 below, taken from the Ministry of Justice report Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013, Ref.3.

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Pattern of arrest by gender

Absolute numbers of arrests for VAP are given in the Ministry of Justice report Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2011, Ref.4.

2009/10 2010/11
men arrested for VAP 374,878 355,835
women arrested for VAP 81,379 75,664
ratio 4.61 4.70

Thus the relative attrition of women through the process of prosecution and conviction can be judged from the ratio of men to women arrested for VAP, around 4.7, compared with the ratio of those convicted, around 8.0.

A review by Parity, Ref.5, gives data for the number of cautions issued as a response to arrests for VAP in 2011 (see their Table 4.2.3),

Offence Male Female
VAP 11,573 4,457

Thus, whilst ~6% of women arrested for VAP were released with a caution, only 3%  of men arrested for VAP were released with a caution.

The gender bias in the criminal justice system can be broken down into bias occurring in the following stages,

  1. the relative likelihood of a man or a woman being arrested for an identical offence;
  2. the relative likelihood of a man or a woman being released with a caution after being arrested for an identical offence;
  3. the relative likelihood of a man or a woman being prosecuted after being arrested for an identical offence;
  4. the relative likelihood of a man or a woman being convicted after being tried for an identical offence;
  5. the relative likelihood of a man or a woman being sent to prison after being convicted for an identical offence.

Whilst there may be some doubt as to whether the average offences are identical for men and women, there appears to be evidence that significant gender bias occurs in respect of VAP offences in stages (2) and (5), and in at least one of (3) or (4). Previous work has shown that, for almost all offence categories, there is emphatic gender bias in stage (5), see http://mra-uk.co.uk/?p=215 and http://mra-uk.co.uk/?p=414 and http://mra-uk.co.uk/?p=1177).

References to author’s own local copies

  • Excel filename on PC: “Table of sentences by gender and crime 2009”
  • Excel filename on PC: “Conviction and Sentencing Data to 2014 / Conviction data”
  • pdf filename on PC: “statistics-women-in the criminal justice system-2013”
  • pdf filename on PC: “statistics-women-in the criminal justice system-2012”
  • pdf filename on PC: “Parity review of men and women in the criminal justice system 20132

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