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Girls are less likely than boys to be referred to a Children’s Hearing on offence grounds and are more likely to come to the attention of the CHS as a result of being the victim of an offence, such as neglect or sexual abuse. There are also indications of a differential in the thresholds and reasons for admission to secure care, with girls appearing to be admitted at a lower threshold and for being a risk to themselves as opposed to a risk to others (Burman and Batchelor 2009; Rigby et al. 2011).

There are similarities and differences with regards to court disposals for males and females aged 16-17 (Scottish Government 2016). In 2014/15, a large proportion of 16- to 17-year-olds, around; a third of both males and females, were dealt with by means of a Community Payback Order, a form of community sentence. Other common disposals were an absolute discharge or admonishment with the latter the most common type of disposal for females. Custodial sentences are not commonly used for 16- to 17-year-olds, but males are generally five times more likely than females to receive a custodial disposal at this age, which is likely to reflect the more serious and persistent patterns of offending which male offenders present, rather than being indicative of particular leniency towards females.

Unlike CHS data, criminal proceedings statistics do give information on the nature of offences for which young people have been convicted by gender (although the available data groups together all young people under the age of 21). Table 18.1 shows the types of crimes and offences for which males and females were convicted in 2014/15, broken down by the crime and offence groups used to classify crimes in Scotland. Convictions for serious violent and sexual crimes are rare, with most being convicted of miscellaneous offences (such as breach of the peace or minor assaults) and, to a slightly lesser extent, other crimes (mainly shoplifting) and motor vehicle offences. Therefore, while justice reforms aim to keep more minor crimes and offences out of the courts, the data presented in Table 18.1 indicate that these types of behaviour are still the main driver of conviction for young people in Scotland.

Research evidence regarding girls drawn into juvenile justice systems has developed, particularly over the last 15 years or so. Yet, girls/young women are often marginalised in juvenile justice debates, policies and strategic action plans where the focus is on boys/young men and/or adult women offenders (Burman and Batchelor 2009). In Scotland, some attempts have been made to address this,

Table 18.1. Males and females under 21 with a charge proved in 2014/15 by crime

and offence type


Males % (n=8624)

Females % (n= 1488)

Non-sexual crimes of violence



Crimes of indecency (inc. crimes relating to prostitution)



Crimes of dishonesty



Fire-raising and vandalism etc.



Other crimes (inc. drugs and crimes against justice)



Miscellaneous offences (inc. simple assault, breach of the peace)



Motor vehicle offences



Source: Scottish Government (2016) “Represents less than 1 %

for example, through the setting up of a ‘champions group’ with those girls/ young women with complex needs and seen as ‘high risk’. Yet, despite evidence which indicates that girls offending follows a different pathway from that of boys (Burman and Batchelor 2009), until recently, little priority has been given to the development of services and interventions for girls and young women in Scotland.

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