(Original M Tracy Hunter)
This post is in response to a question raised in comments to my last piece, Invisible Dead Men. It addresses the sex of perpetrators of known homicide cases, the number of unsolved homicide cases, and what we know about the male:female ratio of perpetrators of all homicides.
- Suspects by Sex
From this ONS Bulletin we find: of the 530 homicides initially recorded in the year ending March 2015, court proceedings had concluded for 285 suspects (51% of all suspects). For those suspects, where proceedings had concluded, 90% were male (257 suspects), 9% were female (26 suspects) and in 1% (2 cases) the homicides were corporate manslaughter.
In my previous post, Invisible Dead Men, I quoted the above 90% figure as being the proportion of male perpetrators of homicide. This was rightly questioned. It is actually the proportion of suspects. We shall see below that 90% is pretty close as the proportion of those convicted also.
However, some homicide cases have no suspect.
And a suspect is not necessarily convicted.
- Cases with No Suspect
Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, year ending March 2015 – Bulletin Tables Figure 2.4 indicates that 94 of the 517 registered homicides (18%) had no suspect.
Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, year ending March 2016 – Bulletin Tables Figure 2.4 indicates that 115 of the 570 registered homicides (20%) had no suspect.
Hence, the number of homicides for which no suspect emerges is substantially greater than the number of women who are tried for homicide offences (roughly double). However, by definition, no data is available on the sex of these unidentified perpetrators of homicide.
- Both-Sexes Conviction Ratio
In 1995/6 the conviction ratio (i.e., the percentage of those prosecuted for homicide offences who were found guilty) was 73.4%. This has increased, some sources putting the conviction ratio as high as 88% in recent years, a substantially higher conviction ratio than other offences. Quoting from here,
“In the 3 years from the year ending March 2013 to the year ending March 2015, 83% of suspects indicted for homicide (murder, manslaughter or infanticide) with a court outcome were found guilty of homicide and 11% were acquitted (Appendix Table 2.16 (1.59 Mb Excel sheet)). Similar criminal justice statistics produced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in their publication Criminal Justice System Statistics Quarterly, December 2014 show that the conviction ratio (the number of convictions within a given period divided by the number of prosecutions in the same period) for homicide offences in 2014 was 88%. This is a relatively high conviction ratio and, for example, compares with 68% for violence against the person offences, and 73% for burglary offences.”
- Convictions by Sex
Data in Table 1, below, relating to years 1995 and 1996, have been taken from HoC Research Paper 99/56 (27th May 1999) “Homicide Statistics”.
Data in Table 2, covering roughly half of year 2014/15, have been taken from this ONS Homicide Bulletin.
The salient features are,
- Men are about 90% of people convicted of homicide offences.
- Men who are tried for homicide are more likely to be convicted of a homicide offence than women, and the sex differential in this respect has increased over the last 20 years;
- Men who are tried for homicide are far more likely to be convicted of murder than women, and the sex differential in this respect has increased over the last 20 years;
- Women who are tried for homicide are more likely to be acquitted, or have proeedings discontinued, than men, and the sex differential in this respect has increased over the last 20 years;
Quoting the from HoC Research Paper 99/56 (27th May 1999) “Homicide Statistics” in respect of the 1995/96 data,
Men appear to be more likely than women to be convicted, and to be convicted of murder. An analysis of the figures for domestic homicides only for the past six years shows not only that this pattern holds true but that when convicted for manslaughter, male suspects are more likely to be given an immediate and longer sentence. (Immediate custody and life imprisonment is mandatory in all cases for a conviction for murder).
These remarks can be repeated with even greater emphasis now, twenty years later.
Table 1: Combined data for years 1995 and 1996
|Indicted for Homicide||Males||Females|
|Convicted (all categories of homicide)||74%||66%|
|Convicted of murder||38%||15%|
|Convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter||7%||12%|
|Convicted of other manslaughter||30%||35%|
|Convicted of infanticide||–||4%|
|Acquitted of any homicide offence, or proceedings discontinued||26%||34%|
Table 2: Data for half of year 2014/15#
|Indicted for Homicide||Males||Females|
|Convicted (all categories of homicide)||81%||63%|
|Convicted of murder||48%||17%|
|Convicted of manslaughter||33%||42%|
|Convicted of a lesser offence*||–||4%|
|Acquitted or proceedings discontinued||12%||33%|
# In total, there were 558 suspects in 2014/15 when the data were compiled, relating to 530 homicides recorded in the year ending March 2015, but of these, court proceedings had concluded for only 285 suspects (51% of all suspects). Hence this Table relates to only about half a year’s homicides.
*I suspect this means Infanticide
- Are Men Treated More Harshly?
As noted above, and demonstrated by the comparison of Tables 1 and 2, the relatively harsher treatment of men compared with women has become substantially more marked in the last 20 years. Thus, the situation regarding the treatment of homicide suspects in the UK criminal justice system is qualitatively similar to that of crimes in general, namely a harsher treatment of men as discussed here and here.
As always, the conundrum is whether this harsher treatment reflects men’s more serious offending. If this were the correct explanation, then the increasing sex differential between 1995/96 and 2014/15 would suggest that male killers are becoming even more nasty and female killers more benign. But there is a less contrived explanation readily at hand. This period has seen the rise of VAWG programmes which drive a harsher treatment of male offenders, together with lobbying like the Corston Report which drives a more lenient approach to female offending, avoiding imprisonment. The fact that this sex differential in sentencing policy can now be seen reflected in sentencing outcomes hardly requires any further explanation.
- Homicides with No Conviction
To estimate the number of homicides for which there is no conviction one needs to add those cases where there is no suspect (i.e., no trial, see Section 2) to those where the defendant is acquitted. Considering Table 2, above, in recent years there is no conviction in roughly 200 or so homicide cases, approaching 40% of homicides in round terms.
- Children and Infants
Both the numbers, and perpetrators, of child homicides in the UK are subject to considerable obfuscation. The position has been summarised here and the rest of this Section is a brief précis of that article. According to official statistics, in recent years there have been roughly 65 child homicides in England and Wales annually (up to about ten years ago this was more like 90 per year). The overwhelming majority of child homicides are carried out by a parent or parents, or a parent’s partner, or some combination thereof.
The most significant feature of child killing, and a fact that is kept well away from public consciousness, is that mothers are responsible for the majority of them. Even more politically incorrect is the observation that single mothers account for a disproportionate number of child homicides.
Infanticide and neonaticide are the province of mothers, and there is reason to be concerned that these child deaths do not feature fully in the homicide statistics.
An extremely small proportion of infanticide cases are brought to court. What few convictions for infanticide occur are almost invariably the result of a murder charge being downgraded to infanticide – and the sentence is almost never custodial. The rate of neonaticides is unknown but might be hundreds per year.
And then there is SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome, or ‘cot death’). In recent years there have been roughly 150 SIDS deaths annually (and it used to be twice as many). It is generally believed that a substantial proportion of SIDS deaths are covert homicides. A fact which the politically correct will never mention is that the rate of SIDS is four times as great among single mothers as among married mothers.
In short, there may be hundreds of infant homicides that are not recognised as such in the official statistics, and these are overwhelmingly due to mothers as perpetrators.
Unless, and until, infant deaths which are actually homicides are recorded as such, the issue of the sex ratio of perpetrators of homicide cannot be properly addressed.
Some people might count abortions as homicides. If so, they dwarf all other homicides, the current annual rate in England & Wales being around 186,000. I wouldn’t go so far as some in equating an abortion within (current) legal time limits with homicide. I’m inclined to think that such abortions are preferable to bringing an unwanted child into the world. But it seems that many of the pro-abortion lobby are in favour of eliminating any time limit. For viable foetuses, and particular those nearing full term, abortion becomes functionally and morally identical to homicide. Monstrously, a supporter of this right-to-kill includes the Royal College of Midwives. What this betrays is a mindset amongst some women that they have a right to decide upon life and death of their child. The significance of this in the present context is that it makes credible the suggestion that covert neonaticides are common.
I have somee reservations about this sort of analysis because it is so easily mischaracterised and can easily facilitate discrimination or bigotry of various sorts.
The most important thing to take from the numbers is that murder is a rare event and that murderers are rare and anomolous people.
There is roughly one order of magnitude between the proportion of the relevant female population who are murderers and the male population who are murderers but three orders of magnitude between the proportion of te population who are murders and those who are not. Qualatatively the difference between the chance that any individual man or women is a murderer is not that great it could be characterised as very unlikely for a man and extremely unlikely for a women. The problem is that the 90% of murderers is a man statistic is used to convey an impression that all men are a threat which is very much not the case.
It might be true that the majority of murdered children are killed by women but in a similar way a message that women are a threat to children would be grossly misleading.
Where the analysis is useful is in guiding, evaluating and measuring the effect of measures to reduce killings.
Measures aimed at reducing the number of single mothers for example is an approach to reducing murders of children and SIDs. Evidence suggest that much domestic violence is commited by those who grew up in homes in which there was violence. A long term measure would therefore be to give custody of children to any non-violent parent who left a violent home and to remove children from mutually violent homes. The problem with any measures is that they require measures which are themselves dangerous and subject to abuse but whatever the policies they shoudl be based on the evidence.
Taking the ratio of very small numbers which represents the probability that a man or women committed a murder is of itself not very useful and potentially very misleading. It also has the potential for large errors.
I absolutely agree that the numbers of homicides should be kept in proportion, and have made this point myself in several other posts. There is an order of magnitude more suicides than homicides. And there is actually 5 orders of magnitude between those who are killers in a given year and those who are not, not 3 (crudely 550 versus 55 million). I also agree most emphatically with your point that it would be preposterous to imply that mothers who kill present an argument that mothers in general are a danger to their children. Again I have made this point very clearly myself, e.g., in 332 Child Homicides, http://empathygap.uk/?p=1503. The point of the latter post was precisely to debunk this same argument being made with the sexes reversed by Women’s Aid’s Child First campaign. The appalling thing is that the Women’s Aid argument is accepted completely uncritically by the whole of our parliament and all the power centres of State, including the judiciary. I invite you to attempt to criticise the 21 Child Homicides report on a WA web site and see whether their moderator approves the comment. Finally, this post is merely the response to a query, so shouldn’t be read in isolation.
I took the lifetime chance of a man being a murderer to get 3 rather than 5 orders of magnitude to be the most ‘unfavourable’ way to look at it.