A couple of interesting recent Court examples of minimization of women’s offending. Firstly, associated with the Murapara gangster murder of a teenager four additional people, three men and one woman were convicted of participating in a criminal group. The three men were quickly sentenced to prison and home detention but the female’s sentencing was adjourned to allow her to participate in a restorative justice process, i.e. to give her an opportunity to escape significant punishment. Yes, the details of culpability etc may well be relevant, but the trend for women to be treated more leniently than men seems constant and reflects unrealistic attitudes seeing females as “sugar and spice and all things nice” who can’t really be seen as antisocial or dangerous.
The second example was that of Mt Albert woman Margaret Hadley who was convicted of threatening to kill her blind neighbour. The judge was reported to state that Hadley had referred to the blind victim in “rather nasty terms”, then the judge told Hadley she was too old for “drinking and then cutting up the neighbourhood” with her words. To me, the judge’s language trivialized Hadley’s offending; tut, tut, such unbecoming language, and there, there you silly old thing, you’re too old to carry on like that you know? At 57 years Hadley was neither too old to threaten serious violence nor to carry out such violence. A 57-year-old man threatening to kill would be seen realistically as a serious threat, perhaps more dangerous than a younger man. Although women commit homicide and serious violence less frequently than do men, they still do so at a significant rate and at various ages. Alcohol affects women’s behaviour, brain, judgment and inhibitions just as much as it does men’s. The judge’s comments appear to reflect the same “sugar and spice and all things nice” mythology about women, underestimating the real harm that women are capable of. Further, Hadley was on “intensive supervision” at the time of this offending; that is probably why she was sentenced to a short jail term at all. We are not told what offending had led to her supervision sentence, whereas when a male offends whilst on an existing sentence you can be sure that media will report his earlier offending. And while we’re on this case, Hadley’s lawyer indulged in some victim-blaming by saying that “her relationship with (the victim) could deteriorate under the influence of alcohol”, then further minimized Hadley’s culpability and risk by comparing her to Robert Louis Stevenson’s fanciful characters Jekyll and Hyde when under the influence of alcohol and stating that Hadley now planned to address her drinking “so hopefully we see less of Mr Hyde”. Oh so droll; another imaginative way to avoid holding a woman responsible for her own actions. Yet in an earlier interview Hadley had claimed that she had only a few drinks and was nowhere near drunk at the time of the offending.