Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Intimacy Discount:' Sentences Lighter for Men Who Kill Female Partners

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Intimacy Discount:' Sentences Lighter for Men Who Kill Female Partners

Article excerpt

Victim sex matters in punishing men who kill


TORONTO - Men who kill their female partners are more likely to be criminally convicted than men accused of killing strangers -- but they also tend to get lighter sentences, a Canadian study concludes.

The research, being published in the journal "Current Sociology," finds that men who kill their wives, girlfriends or other female family members are handed shorter prison terms than men who kill strangers.

In fact, according to the findings, men who kill women they know are treated more leniently at most stages of the criminal-justice process, such as facing fewer charges of first-degree murder.

Study author Myrna Dawson, an associate sociology professor at the University of Guelph, calls it the "intimacy discount."

"This may mean that women killed by male partners are still seen as property and, as such, these femicides are not treated as seriously as other femicides," the study states.

Another factor at play could be that femicide of a partner or family member is typically seen as a spontaneous "crime of passion" or the result of victim provocation.

"Despite the dominance of these beliefs, there has been little examination of the validity of resulting stereotypes," Dawson told The Canadian Press. "Some exploratory research has shown that premeditation or intent is actually more likely in cases involving men who kill female partners."

Perhaps counterintuitively, given the lighter sentences, the study found that men who kill intimate partners are convicted at rates three times higher than men who kill female strangers.

Crimes involving relatives tend to be easier both to solve and prosecute, research suggests. The shorter sentences could therefore be due to charges that are more often reduced in exchange for guilty pleas.

"Understanding whether the plea process or common stereotypes associated with intimacy and violence explain this relationship (between convictions and sentencing) is a crucial next step and one that I am currently examining," Dawson said. …

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