Violence Takes Over From Shoplifting As The Crime Women Most Often Commit

Violence has for the first time overtaken shoplifting as the most common crime by women, according to annual statistics released yesterday.

During 2006-07 the number of women detained for violent offences reached 87,000 – an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year. The number arrested for theft and handling stolen goods was 80,000, down 6,400 on the previous year.

The number of women held for robbery also rose, from 4,100 in 2005-06, to 4,400 in 2006-07, appearing to reflect a growing trend of violence by women.

An increase in young girls and women being arrested for violent attacks occurred in every age group, from 10-17, 18-20 and 21 and over. Overall, the number of women arrested for violent offences has more than doubled in eight years.

The figures, which were released by the Ministry of Justice, show that the largest increase in arrests of both men and women was in the category of violence against the person.

The emergence of a “ladette” culture, linked to excessive alcohol consumption, has been blamed for violence by women. One criminologist said yesterday: “These figures suggest something significant is happening.”

The increase could, however, be a result of changing police practices, in particular the need to meet a government target in 2007-08 of securing convictions for more than 1.2 million offences. This has been achieved. Criminologists and some officers have said that the target has encouraged police to focus on “easy pickings” resulting from disorder on the streets.

There has been a steady rise in the number of women arrested for violence against the person since the turn of the century, when the figure stood at 37,100. This year the Youth Justice Board said that violent attacks by girls aged between 10 and 17 had risen by 50 per cent over the past three years.

The board has ordered a study into offending by girls in this age category. Its initial findings suggest that the rise is linked to an involvement of the police in incidents that in the past would have been dealt with in schools or by other community figures of authority.