Sexual offenders in New Zealand: Gender disparities in police proceedings and judicial sentencing

Dr Kelley Burton1Dr Nadine McKillop1Dr Tess Patterson2, Ms Linda Hobbs2
1USC Law School, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, 2Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand

In this presentation we disseminate findings on our investigation into gender disparities in police and  judicial decision-making for sexual offences in New Zealand (NZ). Police statistics over a 12-month timeframe were used to compare police actions for female and male adults (20 years and over) charged with a sexual offence. Data presented here were extracted and combined from reports made publicly available by the New Zealand Police a Of all sexual offence charges, 2.1% were laid against a female. Our findings indicate that in NZ females were more likely to be charged for ‘non-assaultive sexual offences’ than ‘sexual assault’ and that a significantly greater percentage of females, compared to males charged with a sexual offence, did not proceed to court action. Separate data (measured by the NZ Police Crime Harm Index [CHI]) was used to examine sentencing outcomes imposed across gender. CHI is a derived measure of sentence length calculated for each sentence type(New Zealand Police (2017). Crime Harm Index (Beta Version 5) Provisional User Guide. Wellington, New Zealand Police). Our results showed that sentence types handed down to male sexual offenders were significantly longer compared to those handed down to female sexual offenders. Together these findings indicate possible gender disparities in police proceedings and judicial sentencing of sexual offenders. These issues require further examination to increase societal recognition of the harms associated with female sexual offending, for providing justice for victims, and to enable timely and appropriate access to gender and offence-specific treatment for female perpetrators.


Dr Kelley Burton is an Associate Professor in the USC Law School. Kelley is the sole author or co-author of three leading texts on criminal law in Queensland and Western Australia. In 2016, Kelley’s work on double jeopardy was cited by the Australian Law Reform Commission. In 2017, Kelley was awarded with an AAUT Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for leadership in designing innovative resources that demonstrate a strong command of criminal law education. Kelley’s research interests include criminalisation; criminal law reform; domestic violence; making and distributing visual recordings in breach of privacy; consent; and sentencing.


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