Gender judgments: an investigation of gender differentiation in sentencing and remand in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis addresses the complex and often contentious matter of gender difference in criminal court processing. In New Zealand, little substantive research has been conducted on the issue and this study attempts to remedy the deficit by providing an understanding of how gender operates in New Zealand's criminal justice system. To achieve this, a statistical analysis of 388 individuals, or 194 matched male/female pairs, was conducted. This was accompanied by a case-study analysis of 50 matched male/female pairs, including investigation of individual crime stories, together with Judges' sentencing remarks and Probation Officers' pre-sentencing reports. It was found that: a) sentencing and remand outcomes often differed for adult men and women, with the former usually receiving 'harsher' sanctions, b) different factors were often considered when determining men's and women's judicial outcomes and, c) certain 'types' of men and women were more likely to be extended judicial leniency. In explanation, gendered ways of viewing, understanding and judging offenders indicated the manner in which judicial processing came to be differentiated by sex. For example, constructions of women as dependent, emotional, and traumatised by victimisation often appeared as explanations and excuses for women's offending. In contrast, such 'troubles' appeared as simply unbelievable or irrelevant in the case of men. In this way, men were denied justifications for their offending and they tended to be held fully responsible for their actions. These findings ultimately led to the question of whether male and female offenders should be treated the same or differently by the criminal courts. I argue that before this can be fully addressed, a more balanced understanding of gender and its impact on men's lives is required. I challenge feminist criminologists to transcend the boundaries of the equality/difference debate by problematising criminal justice processing as it relates to both sexes, rather than simply in terms of women versus men.