Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Gender and Official Statistics: The Juvenile Justice System in Queensland, 1998-99

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Gender and Official Statistics: The Juvenile Justice System in Queensland, 1998-99

Article excerpt

One of the more enduring aspects of official statistics is that young males commit a majority of the crime, usually ata ratio of 5:1. This means that young females are routinely regarded as not only "less criminal" than young males in absolute terms, but that the crimes they commit are considered less serious. However, an examination of official statistics reveals that female crime closely follows the patterns observed for males with respect to the "types" of crimes they commit. There is little evidence that female crime is somehow intrinsically different from male crime; instead they share a surprising degree of similarity with that of males. These data present a challenge to many theorists of female crime, especially if they signal a marked change in the way young females view the possibilities for engagement in crime.

Adam Graycar

Director

This paper draws upon official statistics as "captured" by those arms of the state required to formally respond to juvenile offending to examine the issue of gender and criminality. The purpose of this analysis is to reveal the types of offences for which young females are being apprehended and which may result in a finding of guilt. When official statistics are examined in detail, it would appear that while females are unquestionably being cautioned, charged, and incarcerated less than males in absolute terms, they are not being cautioned, charged, and incarcerated for the "traditional" crimes of conventional femininity.

Methodological Issues

The data to be examined are derived from both the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the Families, Youth and Community Care, Queensland (FYCCQ). QPS data are those which reflect the front of juvenile involvement in the criminal justice system; that is, the number who actually come to the notice of the police as a result of offending. FYCCQ data reflect juvenile involvement in the court system and the outcomes of that involvement. Before analysing these official statistics, it is imperative to consider the manner in which the data have been collected. Collection methodologies impact on the manner in which the information can be interpreted. The likelihood of information about juvenile offending being recorded the police is dependent upon a variety of factors. The most important of these are simple police presence and the visibility of youth. Because young people are likely to offend in groups (Cunneen and White 1995) and are likely to commit offences for which they are more easily apprehended (that is, shoplifting) (Gale, Naffine and Wundersitz 1993), young people are significantly more likely than adults to be detected by police and hence included in police data. Therefore, police data may indicate a higher level of juvenile offences based upon the detection techniques.

The other issue that needs to be remembered in interpreting Queensland police data is that it records "multiple offences". This means that distinct criminal acts are counted per criminal incident. For instance, a single criminal incident (theft of a car) may result in a number of offences being recorded (for example, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, possession of a dangerous drug, and assault of a police officer). Thus, QPS data should not be read as representative of individuals, but of "offences detected". The second source of data relate to the appearances of young people in criminal courts. As young people are assigned a unique identifier that is used for all of their court appearances, these data allow for the identification of individuals. The data also allow for the examination of charges and their subsequent outcomes.

Gender and the Police: Cautioning

Starting with police data, Table 1 shows that 79 per cent of juvenile offenders1 dealt with by the police during the 1998-99 period were males. Of the total number of females dealt with by the police, only 15 per cent of cases was the outcome an arrest. For the males, 26 per cent resulted in an arrest. …

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