The New-Brunswick Aboriginal Duty Counsel Project

10. OFFENCE AND GENDER

The table below shows that the offences for which women are charged are more concentrated in assaults and mischief.  Males are charged with break and enter relatively more frequently than women. Men are somewhat more likely to be charged with motor vehicle offences and with breach of probation than are women.

Table 10.1: Offences by Gender
Offence Male Female
No % No %
Assault 23 23.2 % 20 42.6 %
Motor Vehicle 19 19.1 % 8 17. %
Break and Enter 14 14.0 % 1 2.1 %
Mischief 7 7.0 % 5 10.6 %
Breach of Probation 9 9.0 % 1 2.1 %
Escape Custody 4 4.0 % 0 0.0 %
Other 22 22.7 % 12 25.6 %
TOTAL 99 100.0 % 47 100.0 %

Apart from meeting the financial eligibility requirements, receiving legal aid depends on the risk of imprisonment. In part, the risk of imprisonment relates to the level of seriousness of the offence. As well, the criminal background or history of the offender is a determinant of risk of imprisonment. It has already been demonstrated that the women in this sample tend to commit less serious offences compared with men. This means that overall, they would be less likely to face imprisonment, and therefore to receive legal aid. The table below shows that women have fewer prior convictions. This also indicates that women would be less likely to receive legal aid, assuming that a person with fewer prior convictions is less likely to be at risk of imprisonment.

Table 10.2: Prior Offences by Gender
Prior Offences Male Female
No. % No. %
Yes 40 40.0 % 9 19.1 %
No 28 28.5 % 23 48.9 %
N/A 31 31.3 % 15 32. %
TOTAL 99 100.0 % 47 100.0 %

It is often observed that women are disadvantaged with respect to receiving criminal legal aid compared with men. This is because they tend to commit offences that are less serious than those committed by men. They are thus less likely to be covered by legal aid since the offences they commit would be less likely overall to carry a risk of a jail sentence. These data show that women are relatively more likely to be charged with assault and mischief, and less likely to be charged with the break and enter. All other things being equal, break and enter would be considered more serious than assault or mischief. On the other hand, males are more likely to be charged with motor vehicle offences than women. Motor vehicle offences do not carry a high risk of imprisonment.

On strictly numerical grounds, this issue is more significant for Aboriginal women than for non-Aboriginals. Women make up 32.2 % of all Aboriginal people served by the Aboriginal duty counsel project. It was pointed out above that the proportion of Aboriginal women served by the duty counsel project is greater than the proportion that one would normally expect in criminal legal aid. Aboriginal women also make up a much larger percentage of Aboriginal people served by the regular duty counsel service than of non-Aboriginal women as a percentage of all non-Aboriginal people charged.

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