Editor-At-Large: Sugar and spice... why have our little girls turned sour?

Young women are becoming more violent in a bid for 'respect', but it's a lack of female role models, not alcohol, that's to blame
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The Independent Online

Whichever way you look at it, the latest figures for the number of women arrested for violent behaviour are shocking. Put simply, there has been a 100 per cent increase since 2002-03, from 42,200 to a whopping 87,200. For the first time, it exceeds the number arrested for theft and handling stolen goods (traditionally "female" crimes). The number of women arrested for being drunk and disorderly has also risen by 50 per cent over the past few years.

Now, I would be the last person to denigrate the sisterhood, but reading these statistics makes me feel slightly nauseous. I can't deny that something unpleasant and unpalatable has happened to how a large number of my sex behaves – particularly when drunk and when provoked, even if that provocation might be over something utterly mundane.

A few weeks ago, a couple of male police officers in Croydon, south London, were attacked by a 30-strong mob led by a gang of schoolgirls who bit and bashed them (resulting in hospital treatment) when one officer had the temerity to reprimand a young woman for chucking litter in a shopping precinct. The ensuing riot left everyone who witnessed it completely shocked.

Week in and week out, taxi drivers tell me that the worst people they deal with are not slobbering businessmen but drunken, puking, foul-mouthed women. Shopkeepers in city centres routinely encounter large groups of mouthy teenage girls who not only nick stuff but threaten anyone who confronts them. It seems that some young teenage girls – who probably don't even drink – are demanding the same kind of "respect" as their male counterparts. These girls film violent attacks on their perceived rivals and proudly post them on the internet as some kind of badge of honour. It's profoundly depressing.

It would be easy to say that the current rise in violence is fuelled by alcohol. It does play a part – I am the first to admit, that after a couple of bottles of wine with a bunch of friends, I am louder and more confrontational than usual. But that's not the only answer. For some unknown reason a large number of working-class young women seem desperate to ape all that is most threadbare and pathetic about macho male culture. They seek "respect"– they want us to recognise how important they are.

Stopping teens being able to buy alcohol until they are 21 (as some MPs would like) isn't the simple answer. The rise in violence inflicted by young women is part of a need to assert identity when you have very little self-esteem. The same reason there's a rise in the number of women who self-harm and have eating disorders. A coroner's court last week heard the story of a 16-year-old girl who committed the ultimate violent crime – against herself. Drunk at home, she had a row on the phone with her boyfriend, and took her own life while he was still on the line.

Young women don't have a great selection of role models, and those successful females they might be impressed by – such as Katie Price – have made a career out of their bodies. Even if Ms Price is highly intelligent, her conspicuous consumption and endless self-promotion offers a pretty threadbare manual for living. I just can't sign up to the club of middle-class media types who patronisingly claim she's brilliant.

A lot has been written about young men needing mentors and father figures. These crime figures show that young women need our attention even more.

Life's a beach, Madge, and I'm taking this book

Reading pompous lists of what the famous read on holiday is a hoot. Be honest, most of us won't be packing anything off the 2008 Booker Prize shortlist. I won't be wading through Salman Rushdie's 'The Enchantress of Florence', (set in the 16th century) or 'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill (about cricket in New York). I've shelled out a tenner for 'Life with My Sister Madonna' by Christopher Ciccone. It's got everything – sex, shopping, religion, and utter ruthlessness. Great photos – Madge with the relatives; Madge in her high-school uniform. What utter disloyalty – no wonder she looked miserable and thin while out with her daughter in New York. Meanwhile, hubbie (speaking dodgy mockney) tells a magazine he travels around London by bike, refers to the police as "the old Bill" and Madonna as "the wife". Sounds like a right pub bore.

Yes, he's an anorak, but Gary could save the NHS

Gary McKinnon faces life imprisonment in the US after losing his appeal against extradition.

The self-confessed "nerd" became a hacker after watching the movie WarGames. Gary – who bears more than a passing resemblance to Star Trek's Vulcan, Mr Spock – was stunningly successful.

Night after night, in his bedroom in north London, Gary popped on a dressing gown, smoked a few spliffs, and managed to hack into the Pentagon, convinced that the US was chatting to aliens and planning to develop weapons with them.

But instead of packing this harmless weirdo off to maximum security to please the yanks, we should be employing his undoubted skills to shore up the creaky computer systems our Government has saddled the NHS and social services with over here.

Sue the bug death culprits

If you or I ran a group of hospitals where 331 people died from a bug, we would find exactly who was to blame. But an inquiry by Kent Police and the Health and Safety Executive has decided that no single "negligent act" caused the death of hundreds of patients in three hospitals run by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. The report found appalling standards of care, crowded wards, poor hygiene, and a shortage of nurses, but, astonishingly, no one faces charges. The former chief executive, Rose Gibb, left by "mutual consent". I hope that relatives of the victims are bringing a civil case against the trust.