The statistics would appear to support this, with only one fifth of NSW offenders in 2011-2012 being female.
This is in direct comparison with male offenders, who were more frequently found guilty of domestic violence assault, non-domestic violence assault, property damage, and drug offences as well as offensive behaviour.
Currently in NSW jails, only 7% of the inmates are female, which would suggest that women commit fewer serious crimes than men, and/or that they receive custodial sentences less frequently.
Women have a lower rate of repeat prison sentences at 37.7%, compared to male offenders whose recidivism rate is 52.8%.
Women also received shorter sentences on the whole, with the average for adult female prisoners in 2012 at just over two years, while for adult males the average sentence length was almost 40 months.
What are the most common offences committed by women?
Women are often found to commit non-violent property offences such as theft, burglary, fraud and embezzlement.
In more recent times, however, women have also been found guilty of an increasing number of drug offences, possibly independently, but it’s also suggested that a number of convictions are due to women helping out their partners and carrying drugs or equipment for them, especially if their partners already have a prior drug conviction.
Drug offences and theft are often seen in combination in female offenders, with offenders stealing so they can afford to buy drugs.
Another growing trend in offences committed by women are assault offences, and those that are intended to cause injury.
With around 14% of women in custody in Australia being jailed for offences which were intended to cause injury, these type of offences rank close behind drug offences in frequency and overall proportion of offences committed by women (17%).
Although assault-related offences are on the rise amongst men and women, the vast majority of assault offences are still committed by men, at four times the number of assault offences committed by women.
What are the most common offences committed by men?
Unsurprisingly, men are most commonly associated with violent and sexual crimes and the rate of these types of crimes committed by men is significantly higher than those committed by women, although according to figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology, the gap is narrowing slightly when it comes to murder.
In 2008-2012, the most serious offences committed by adult males who had been arrested and detained by police were violent offences.
Violent offences were committed by 30% of detainees in 2012, followed by property offences which were committed by 17%.
Breaches of previous orders were also a major reason for offenders being detained by police, with 25% of detainees being held for this reason.
According to figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology, the rate of violent crimes overall has been decreasing for a number of years with annual rates for murder, sexual assault, robbery and assault all in decline.
Are female criminals on the rise?
Although there are currently more men in custody than women, recent figures have shown that the conviction rate for women is increasing rapidly, even for typically male-dominated crimes like murder and violence.
Young women in particular are appearing more frequently in court and many for violence offences, including assault and armed robbery.
According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), the number of women being arrested has risen in recent years, growing by 2.5% over the last decade. This is faster than the increase in arrest rate for men, which went up by 1.7%.
The largest increases in crimes committed by women were:
- 21.4% increase in possession and ecstasy use.
- 17.1% increase in possession and use of other drugs.
- 14% increase in private nuisance, harassment and threatening behaviour offences.
- 13.4% increase in amphetamine dealing and trafficking.
- 10.6% increase in possession and use of amphetamines.
The increases are believed to be due to a number of issues, including more widespread alcohol consumption by women and socio-economic factors such as poverty and unemployment.
Changes in drugs offences could also be due to changes in policing policy, enforcement and other practices which could lead to a higher arrest and conviction rate.
Although the statistics show that men still form an overwhelming majority of offenders, especially when it comes to sexual offences and violent crime, the rate of crimes committed by women is increasing.
When it comes to violent crime, men are still the main perpetrators, but women are starting to commit increasing numbers of drug-related crimes along with harassment and intimidation.