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British research finds gender differences in intoxicated assault sentencing

23 October 2018

Research at England's University of Liverpool has found that women are twice as likely than men to receive harsher sentences for assault offences when alcohol is a contributing factor.

The research has been published by Carly Lightowlers as "Drunk and Doubly Deviant? The Role of Gender and Intoxication in Sentencing Assault Offences" in the British Journal of Criminology.

It drew on data generated from Britain's Crown Court Sentencing Survey, which looked at over 30,000 cases heard between the second quarter of 2012 and the end of 2014.

Dr Lightowlers says there has been little attention paid to how alcohol intoxication operates in determining sentences for female defendants. She says the main finding of her study is that intoxication increases sentence severity more so for women than for men - both in terms of the probability of custody and severity of the sentence dispensed.

The research uses an example of actual bodily harm and finds that the probability of a custodial sentence was lower for women than for men - both when sober and intoxicated.

However, when intoxication was cited as an aggravating factor it did not have the same impact for male and female defendants.

The aggravation – the increase in probability of a custodial sentence – applied by the judge was 13.4% for women, which was moer than twice that applied to male defendants (5.7%).

Dr Lightowlers says the findings could be a result of the perception that alcohol consumption and violence go against traditional notions of womanhood, and these are reinforced when sentences are handed down.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019