Letter: Spouses who kill

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While I agree with Natasha Walter that Zoora Shah's life- sentence for killing her partner seems harsh in comparison to the six- year sentence passed on David Hampson (Comment, 1 November), one case alone cannot support her contention that the judicial system is prejudiced against women.

At least in Scotland, figures provided by the Scottish Office suggest the contrary. During the period 1992-96 in Scotland 69 people were found guilty of killing their partners: 40 males and 29 females. More than 30 per cent of the female perpetrators received non-custodial sentences amounting to admonishment or probation; the proportion of males receiving such sentences was 7.5 per cent. Among those receiving custodial sentences, nearly 50 per cent of females were sentenced to four years or less; fewer than 10 per cent of males were similarly sentenced.

I would be surprised if patterns of sentencing by the courts of England and Wales are very different, not least because of the conclusion in Home Office Research Finding 58 (1997) that in these courts, violent offences are dealt with in such a way that "even when other factors such as previous criminal record, seriousness of offence and type of court were taken into account, women were less likely to be given a custodial sentence than men".

PHILIP PERCIVAL

Glasgow

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