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ARE FEMALE PERPETRATORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TREATED MORE LENIENTLY THAN MALE PERPETRATORS?

Over the last year to 18 months I have, amongst many others, seen the following headlines. ‘KILLED BY WIFE: AFTER HE LOST JOB’, ‘WAR VET BATTERED BY HIS GIRLFRIEND’, and ‘OXFORD STABBER LAVINA’S TWO OTHER ATTACKS’. The common factor in each of the cases is that the perpetrator of the abuse was a female and the victim a well-respected  male, (a solicitor, ex-soldier and PhD student). Suspend for a minute, the fact that physical abuse perpetrated by females on their male partners is an extremely rare phenomenon, or at least it is rarely reported. Also completely disregard the notion of mitigation for the purposes of exposition. The question is ‘are female perpetrators’ treated more leniently by the Courts? The answer, perhaps inevitably, is yes, maybe and no! Male hegemony has the effect of either over-punishing females for daring to abandon their nurturing and caring roles, or of under-punishing them because of ‘chivalrous’ notions of how society should act towards the ‘weaker sex’.

The woman who ‘terrorised’ her ex-soldier boyfriend received 30 months for hitting him with a bottle, stool and 12kg dumbbell. He was left in a pool of blood, which was potentially fatal, as he had been taking a blood-thinning medicine. On balance, the sentence is on the lenient side. The maximum for ABH (the offence that she was charged with) is 60 months custody, but the ‘top end’ of the usual sentencing range is 36 months. I am afraid that I put this sentence in the ‘chivalry’ box. The husband-killer received life, with a tariff of 20 years, for stabbing him to death with a kitchen knife, during an argument, just two months after they had gotten  married. During the trial she was described as ‘domineering’ and branded as a bully. I put this in the ‘too harsh’ box. The range for ‘domestic murders’ is 15 to 30 years and pre-meditation is what usually takes the tariff up from the minimum.  The ‘Oxford stabber’, amazingly was an aspiring heart surgeon, ‘with an “extraordinary” talent for medicine’, considered ‘too brainy for jail’. She had stabbed her boyfriend through the leg with a breadknife, and hurled a laptop, glass and jam jar at him. Clearly the notion of a custodial sentence, by itself, puts this fairly and squarely in the ‘chivalry’ box.

 

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