Observations on Davies-Corston Disagreement

Following Philip Davies MP’s presentation at ICMI-16, Baroness Corston has challenged the accuracy of his claims in an article in The Guardian. Philip Davies presented the case that men are treated more harshly in respect of prison sentencing than women. I have dealt with this topic previously (and here) and come to the same conclusion as Philip Davies. I will not repeat the case here but confine myself to responding to Baroness Corston’s counter-claims.

I will principally deploy data from the Ministry of Justice Sentencing Statistics 2009 Supplementary Tables (Ref.1) and the Ministry of Justice Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2013 (Ref.2). The reader may easily check what follows for himself.

The Guardian quotes Davies as claiming that, in 2009,  34.7% of men were sentenced to immediate custody for violence against the person, compared with 16.9% of women, and in the same year 61.7% of men were sentenced to immediate custody for robbery, compared with 37.7% of women. I can confirm that these figures are correct. They can be found in Ref.1 Table 2i.

In the Guardian article, Baroness Corston attempts to refute this evidence of harsher treatment of men by the observation, “In the same year, however, women were sentenced to an average of 17.9 months in prison for violence against the person, compared with 17.7 months for men“. I can confirm that these figures also are correct. They appear in Ref.1 Table 2j.

However, what the Baroness did not draw attention to is how unrepresentative this one data point is of the totality of data in that same Table. I have rendered the data of Ref.1 Table 2j graphically in Figure 1, below. For this purpose I have taken the ratio of the average sentence length awarded to men to the average sentence length awarded to women for the same offence category (where the averaging is carried out only over those actually sentenced to prison, i.e., a substantially higher proportion of men).

The data point identified by the Baroness, at a ratio of 0.99 and hence uncharacteristically less than 1, is indicated by the arrow on the Figure. It is clearly preposterous to claim that this single data point invalidates Philip Davies’s claim that men receive longer prison sentences on average. On the contrary, the data support this contention.

More worryingly, since the Baroness has clearly looked up this Table of data, how could she have missed observing that the bulk of the data support Davies’s contention?

Figure 1: Data from Ref.1, Table 2j (click to enlarge)

Ratio of sentence lengths 2009

Other figures quoted in the Guardian article from Davies’s speech were that, in 2014, 33% of men were sentenced to custody for child neglect, compared with only 15% of women. I can again confirm that these figures appear to be correct, in that the data for 2013 are essentially the same – as shown by Ref.2 Figure 7.05, reproduced below as Figure 2. Whilst men who are convicted are more than twice as likely to be sent to prison for cruelty to, or neglect of, a child, women are more than twice as likely to receive a community sentence. This is consistent with Davies’s contention.

Figure 2: Ref.2, Figure 7.05 (click to enlarge)

statistics-women-in the criminal justice system-2013-Fig7_05

In the Guardian article, Baroness Corston also claimed that “Generally a lot of the crimes women commit are associated with poverty; shoplifting for food for the children is not uncommon”. I have no data on what proportion of shoplifting is for food – or indeed for food for children. I would be interested to see the Baroness’s source for these claims. The remark appears to be an appeal to sentiment. In terms of data, Ref.2 Figure 7.02 is reproduced as Figure 3 below. It shows that whilst women are more likely than men to receive a community sentence or a conditional discharge for shoplifting, men are more likely than women to go to prison for shoplifting. This is consistent with Philip Davies’s claims.

Figure 3: Ref.2, Figure 7.02 (click to enlarge)

statistics-women-in the criminal justice system-2013-Fig7_02

Baroness Corston attempts to refute Davies’s contention of harsher treatment of men by the observation “I’ll give you an example: a woman who was sentenced to life for a first offence of wounding with intent. That would never, never happen to a man.” This must be ruled invalid as evidence. A single case has no bearing on the overall picture. I could cite dozens of cases of women committing acts of violence which did not result in a prison sentence. But even 100 selected cases prove nothing about the trend – for this one needs data. The statistical picture is provided by Figure 4 – taken from Ref.2, Figure 7.04. It shows that men convicted of actual bodily harm (ABH) are more than twice as likely to go to prison as women, whilst women are nearly twice as likely to receive a community sentence.

Figure 4: Ref.2, Figure 7.04 (click to enlarge)

statistics-women-in the criminal justice system-2013-Fig7_04

Baroness Corston also remarks, “If his (Davies’s) evidence is there’s only 4,000 women in prison and 80,000 men, that doesn’t tell you that the courts are soft on women.” That is a classic straw man – because that is not the argument being made. My own phrasing of the argument that men are treated more harshly than women in the criminal justice system is this,

  • Whilst the male:female prison ratio is 21:1 the conviction ratio is only about 3:1 (for all offences) or about 6:1 (for the more serious, indictable, offences);
  • For almost every category of offence, men are far more likely to be given a custodial sentence than women;
  • For almost every category of offence, men who are sentenced to prison receive a substantially longer sentence than women;
  • Objections to the conclusion that the above observations imply a harsher treatment of men based on differing patterns of offending or differing degrees of recidivism do not withstand scrutiny (see here);
  • The number of men in prison increases relentlessly despite the crime rate falling for twenty years.
  • Very strong lobbies and political will are backing more lenient treatment for women, whilst also pursuing a policy of being ‘tough on crime’. Thus, a gender disparity is being driven by policy.

The fundamental issue relates to the meaning of “equality”. Philip Davies insists that he is concerned to promote equality, the present position being inequitable. But Philip Davies, like myself, believes that equality means treating everyone the same. This is the true source of the disagreement. For there is a very strong lobby, of which Baroness Corson is merely an exemplar, who believe that equality does not mean treating everyone the same.

That is the underlying issue, and that is what the numerous newspaper articles on Davies’s speech should be exposing to public scrutiny – not selfies of young women eating cake.

17 thoughts on “Observations on Davies-Corston Disagreement

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  4. Douglas Milnes

    There is a petition calling for Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, to be recognised as a leading MP for fairness & justice. As a tireless campaigner for genuine and useful equality, his record shows that he fights against both misogyny and misandry and is one of the rare politicians to represent everybody in his constituency regardless of ideological bias and hate thrown at him for exposing the truth about issues.

    As Philip Davies is able and willing to acknowledge the existence of sexism and discrimination in British society and to explain whether it is misogyny or misandry, we believe that he is consequently able to defend and stand up for all males, as well as care for children and women.

    We therefore urge Mr. Davies to look for a long and successful career and urge Theresa May, his Party Leader and Prime Minister, to promote Philip Davies to high office.


    As William Collins says, society is getting too used to prominent men being punished for stating truths, or expressing well founded opinions. It is time this stopped and with Mr Davies, we can be sure of someone who will not capitulate, who will not apologise for acting in the best interests of ALL his constituents.

    Like me, you need not support all of Philp Davies’ politics but we need to stop the harmful precedents of censorship and silence. Please sign the petition as your stance against totalitarian raging. Once you have signed, pass along news of the petition to support an elected member of parliament being able to expose the truth and draw logical conclusions from it.

  5. Logan

    And Corbyn has asked for him to be suspended for the grotesque crime of… stating the truth that men are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system. And despite Baroness Corston’s “I have this singular example therefore you’re wrong” evidence – nothing Phillip said was untrue. Cue the young upper-class white feminists eating cake. Oh, those empowered wags. I wonder if any of them actually truly believe that the law treats women worse than men? I strongly suspect they know it doesn’t, but accepting the reality they see around them every day might mean the dogma of feminism would collapse under it’s own hyperbole and fantasy, and we can’t have that, can we?

    Telling that this is one of those Guardian articles which does not allow comments, isn’t it?

  6. Aesopstortoise

    The 0.2 month disparity in sentencing cited by Baroness Corston may have a very simple explanation. If it is true that men are sentenced more harshly than women for the same crimes, and knowing that many more men are sent to prison than women, then we can speculate that the women who receive a prison sentence had to be found guilty of a higher level of violence than a significant number of the men. The only way to know whether or not this is so would be to directly compare the actual crimes committed and not just the sentences.

    1. Douglas Milnes

      It could also be because a greater proportion of male prisoners die in prison, and their time served ends with their demise.

      I don’t have the research time (busy on the petition) but you could try an FOI request to dig into the data.

  7. Mykter

    In which we learn that women steal food “for the children”.
    Of course they do, obvious really – although William would like to know the source of the information.

    I can assist him here perhaps.

    The source of the information is the baroness’s vivid and inventive imagination.

  8. AJ

    The ‘outrage against Phillip Davies’ spech is revealing and disturbing. I think the case that there is a strong bias in favour of women and against men in the criminal justice system is overwhelming but that is beside the point. He presented an argument about a topic of legitimate concern – bias in the treatment of those convicted of an offense. His case was based on statistics for which he identified the source and were apposite. He raised the issue in a calm and considered way and did not advocate rash or illegal actions. It was in short a model of how issues should be raised by a politician or anyone else.

    It has been met by accusations of misogyny by Senior politicians and in at least some sections of the press by outrage without any attempt except by the baroness to refute his argument. Once the issue has been raised to prominence it should be the case that the arguments and evidence are presented more widely. I expected for this reason he would simply be ignored but instead he has been widely attacked without any regard to what he actually said. This a critical moment, if he is punished by the conservatives the message is clear, any publically expressed dissent from orthodoxy however well grounded and carefully presented will damage the career of those brave enough to present it. If he is not punished then the publicity raised and the numbers who will as a result viewed his presentation will be it’s own reward. This is important and not just for mens rights. There are plenty of political opinions I strongly disagree with, many as it happens held by Phillip Davies, but as long as they are expressed reasonably and especially if backed by evidence then it is important that they should be expressed. All political parties seem in head long retreat from any sort of debate or rstional argument in favour of presentation and emotion. It is a dangerous trend which this incident exemplifies.

    1. William Collins Post author

      The precedents of prominent men being punished for stating truths, or expressing well founded opinions, are now well established. The more precedents there are, the more men (and women) will be frightened to speak up. The fear of punishment is not merely a fear, but real. There is a name for a society which succumbs to this dynamic – totalitarian. Further symptoms which confirm the disease are: an ever increasing prison population, especially as regards people in the chosen ‘out group’, and, increasingly draconian policing in which arrests are made without investigation, police invent new ‘laws’ which impinge on civil liberties, and the ‘in group’ call for suspensions in due process.

      1. numbCruncher

        If the diagnosis is totalitarianism, let us consider the prognosis. What has been the fate of totalitarian societies throughout history?

        “Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” – Winston Churchill (While England Slept, 1938)

  9. Clay

    “Men’s rights activists must wake up and realize that the time for trying to counter the hypocrisy with rationality – with essentially male arguments, using facts and truth, in the hope that sense will prevail – is not going to make any difference to the relentless feminist long march on men” -Herbert Purdy ICMI-16

    “Let us be clear, the removal of fathers from the lives of their children is … public … policy“. -Robert Franklin ICMI-14

    Being informed is not enough. Knowledge, by itself, is not power, but it holds the potential for power if we use it as a guide for action. Truth always will be defeated by tyranny unless we are willing to step forward and enter the battle. The future belongs, not to ideas, but to people who act on those ideas. If you truly want to make a difference in the world, you will need to get out from behind your keyboards. G. Edward Griffen

    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
    -Albert Einstein

    1. Groan

      Though I agree facts and logic are certainly only a part of the solution. But they are and important part because the “thinking we used when we created them” was not logic and certainly not facts. Of course Mr. Davies gains publicity through colourful language and the reporting is generally a tumbling out of white knightery and scoffing. Yet still an issue long held back in the shadows is exposed and some will follow through and see the Baroness’ s dissembling. One of the very great mistakes the public make about public services, is to assume that they are aware of lots of information and thus plot. After 30 years in public services I know this is an illusion. There is little real analysis done and unless pushed even basic facts will be quite unknown by officials. Mr. Davies facts come from the researchers in the Parliamentry Library using Gov. Department Statistics. The often excellent reports done for MPs rarely work there way into Gov. Agencies unless pushed by public debate. Indeed a simple FOI to and agency querying the gender split in their data can reveal this to them in producing the FOI response. Although it is in the Law (Equality Act and public services Equality Duty) in fact apart from the policy areas covered by the violence Against Woman and Girls Strategy public bodies very rarely do any gender analysis of their own data. And so a great deal of what drives public agencies is the sort of flimsy opinion pieces such as the Corston Report.

  10. Clay

    Why isn’t the baroness ousted for being the true liar here? Is it because, as a feminist, she is privileged and she is allowed to spew her hatred and lies with impunity? Only facts were reported by Davies and FACTS are not bias or wrong. Only in the insane world of the criminal feminist can you find this repugnant logic that isn’t.

    When will you people finally have enough? WHEN????????

    1. Groan

      Philips Davies levels the charge of Hypocrisy. Completely accurate in this case. 30 years ago is was feminist academics in Law who “discovered” the higher tariffs for males. Really by being the first to actually look at the data. there has subsequently been a good deal of research in the English speaking world. It was this research that led to the idea of “benign sexism” in feminist theory both the account for preferential treatment of women and to suggest that this preferential treatment undermined women being taken seriously. Put simply males are treated as if they are moral agents, capable of good and bad and females as subject to the will of others or illness. If you could bear to read it the Baroness’s report is in fact an exposition of benign sexism. As such it should (and one thinks may well have been had it been a Baron) be comprehensively criticised for the obviously deeply traditional view of women as the weaker vessel.


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