Documents to download

Both government and third sector organisations have argued that women’s needs in the criminal justice system (CJS) are often complex and distinct from those of men. This briefing summarises Baroness Corston’s 2007 report, which argued that the underlying reasons for men and women to offend differed, as did their responses to interventions and rehabilitation. Baroness Corston argued for a radically different approach. Several of the report’s recommendations were implemented. These included the introduction of community women’s centres and an end to routine strip searches. Additionally, recognition was given in government policy of the need to take a woman-centred approach when with dealing with female offenders. However, the House of Commons Justice Committee has expressed concerns about the impact of several separate reforms made to the CJS including:

  • The size of the female prison population and in particular the number of “ineffective short custodial sentences” given to women.
  • The increase in the rate of women being recalled to prison under the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014.
  • The impact of reforms introduced under the Coalition Government’s rehabilitation transformation strategy on the funding of women’s centres and their ability to provide community support.

This briefing provides an overview of these three issues.

In 2018, the current Conservative Government published a female offender strategy. The strategy aims to “break the cycle” of reoffending by addressing the vulnerability of female offenders and by providing tailored support. The Government made commitments to:

  • Reduce the number of women entering the system by intervening earlier with support in the community.
  • Reduce the number of women serving short custodial sentences.
  • Improve the conditions for women in custody, including improving and maintaining family ties and providing better community rehabilitation support.

The Government commissioned Lord Farmer to follow up his report of 2017 into the importance of family ties in improving outcomes for offenders. He was asked to undertake a further review focused on the needs of female offenders. Lord Farmer found that “healthy, supportive” relationships were “utterly indispensable” for every woman in the CJS.

The final section in this briefing summarises the strategy. It looks at progress made by the Government to implement its commitments and the findings of Lord Farmer’s review.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)

    In recent years, there has been a fall in levels of trust and confidence in policing. This followed a series of high-profile scandals, some of which involved serious offences committed by serving police officers. This briefing explores the role of media coverage in changing public perceptions of policing and also reports on calls by various parties to improve the current levels of confidence.

    Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)
  • Cyclists and the law

    Currently, cyclists who ride dangerously or carelessly can be prosecuted for various offences, including those contained in the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended). In 2024, the government said it was introducing a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling. This briefing summarises the existing laws and proposals for creating new offences ahead of a forthcoming debate in the House of Lords.

    Cyclists and the law
  • Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24

    The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 May 2024. The bill seeks to fulfil the commitment made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 10 January 2023 to quash the convictions of those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal. It would extend and apply to England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Its provisions would come into force at royal assent. During committee stage the bill was extended to Northern Ireland. There have also been calls for it to be extended to Scotland. The bill has received cross-party support but is controversial as the quashing of convictions by Parliament is unprecedented. In addition, concerns about the scope of the bill have been raised. The bill would not include individuals whose convictions were previously upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24