Are girls good for the guilty?

WE know men's and women's brains are different and there are entire sciences dedicated, sometimes controversially, to determining if these physical and chemical qualities affect cognitive functioning.

Harvard University's Pulitzer Prize-winning Prof Edward O Wilson helped found one of these scientific factions, and his teaching holds that human females are more empathetic; males more dominant and aggressive.

When I first suggested Victoria's women judges might be more lenient, Attorney-General Rob Hulls saw red.

"We are all shaped to an extent by our backgrounds, our experiences, our personal views, whatever those views may be," he wrote.

"The achievement of every judge, however, is to bring those experiences to bear with reflection, then apply the law with dispassion and impartiality.

"Suggesting some sort of women's sentencing conspiracy in our courts does not add to informed debate of the system."

No one was talking conspiracies, Rob, just the possibility of a natural bias towards leniency in sentencing - one that would be exposed if we bothered to properly monitor our systems of justice.

On Sunday, I called Toby Green, chief psychologist and founder of Toby Green and Associates, best-selling author, long-time relationships columnist for the Sunday Herald Sun, and with more than 30 years' counselling experience, to ask her about the differences between men and women and how they might manifest among members of Victoria's judiciary.

"I used to think that everyone had potential, that given enough love and care, they'd be fine. (But) I now, through years of experience, really think there are people among us who are just cockroaches. They are just evil," she said.

"But I think that's more a bloke attitude than a female attitude. I think a lot of women believe there's good in all of us and that everybody can be saved."

And Green believes that is what might encourage the leniency we so often see in the justice meted out by women.

Green believes that as women populate the areas traditionally dominated by men, they might wish to be seen as being more reasonable. Men don't care.

"Men are much better judges of character than women, because they take the facts as they see them. They are not taken in by 'Well, he had a mean mum, a brutal dad'."

I asked Green if she were appearing in court charged with a crime, would she prefer to go before a man or woman magistrate?

"If I were guilty, I'd prefer a female - especially if I had a sad story to tell!"




Commentary by the


The fact that some female or male judges apply out of the ordinary light sentences that defy reality, show more likely, an unsuitability for the judiciary which should have a wide range of judicial discretion for the determination of appropriate sentences.

The fact that some female judges have that inability, shows flaws in the judiciary selection process that indicates that the selection process is using gender to determine suitability to be a judge rather than all the qualities on expects from a judicial candidate.

Most jurisdictions, do not have mental health or personality screening for the judiciary and while that continues we will continue to see the appointment of people who are entirely unsuitable by way of mental health, experience or personality appointed to the bench.

Solve the cause, not the effects.


While it's great to see Allan Howe bringing to the public's attention some of the apparently abnormal sentencing, it would be nice to see at the same time, a comparative big picture on overall sentencing.

Other countries have "sentencing guidelines" that remove almost entirely judicial discretion to make wide variations, generally on the light side in certain cases.

Anytime, anyone including Allan Howie takes the judiciary to task, it needs to be very carefully investigated, the entire transcripts need to be reviewed, the reporter should have been present during the entire trial if he or she is going to able to have a qualified opinion and not just an opinion that looks at the offense and the sentence.

There are other more serious problems with the judiciary that need addressing rather than the odd oddball sentence.