Police Discretion with Young Offenders

V. Situational Factors Affecting Police Discretion

10.0 Gender

Canadian research has found that, overall, apprehended male youth have a slightly higher probability of being charged than females (Carrington, 1998a; Conly, 1978). In Canada, in the 1970’s, there were substantial gender differences in charging among police departments[103] that could only be partially accounted for by the differences in types of offences that males and females committed (Conly, 1978). Doob & Chan’s study of the youth bureau of one southern Ontario police force found no effect of the juvenile’s sex when other factors were controlled (1982: 30). By the 1990’s, gender differences in charging in Canada were very small (Carrington, 1998a).

Virtually all of our respondents (94%) said they do not consider the gender of the young person at all when deciding on a course of action with youth-related incidents. Officers in communities with an identified youth gang problem are slightly more likely to take the youth’s gender into account (12% consider gender to be a factor or minor factor versus 5% in other communities). Of the eight officers who said that they consider gender a minor or secondary factor, seven are practitioners (front-line officers).

The views of respondents are borne out by analysis of UCR2 data. Although apprehended male youth are more likely than females to be charged (Table V.15, column 1), practically all of this difference disappears when other related factors are statistically controlled. The remaining difference (2%) could well be due to other factors which could not be included in the analysis, such as the youth’s demeanour.

Table V.15 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the gender of the youth, Canada (parts), 2001
Gender % charged Adjusted % charged N
Male 54 53 22,641
Female 45 51 8,171

Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.

[103]For example, Conly (1878) found the following variatins: Quebec City 54% of apprehended males charged vs. 27% of apprehended females), London (34% vs. 21%), Windsor (25% vs. 7%), and Winnipeg (84% vs. 57%) (30).