Bay women increasingly violent

By Amy McGillivray

Western Bay women are becoming increasingly violent, according to a top criminal defence lawyer.

Last year, 115 women were convicted in the Tauranga court cluster of acts intended to cause injury, compared with eight in 1980.

Statistics New Zealand records show the number of women convicted for crime in the Tauranga court cluster has risen from 463 in 1980, to 1321 in 2011 - an increase of 858 convictions over the period.

The Tauranga court cluster includes Tauranga, Opotiki, Waihi and Whakatane.

The number of women convicted for acts intended to cause injury, dangerous or negligent acts, abduction, harassment, robbery, extortion, burglary, breaking and entering, theft, fraud, drug offences, weapons and explosives offences and property damage have all increased during the 32-year period.

The number of women convicted of dangerous or negligent acts endangering people has risen by 39 over the same period and more Western Bay women are now convicted of fraud and deception offences than men.

Last year, 74 women were convicted of fraud related crimes, compared with 48 men.

Tauranga Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said police now had to deal with more violence from women than ever before.

"Society is a hell of a lot more violent now," he said. "We're particularly seeing a big increase in violence from females that I never used to deal with. They are into violence in a big way."

Mr Turner said he saw it even in school-age girls, who now physically bullied each other.

Criminal defence lawyer Rachael Adams said she and her colleagues have also noticed a "deeply troubling" upward trend in violence from women.

"The consensus is universal - there is a feeling that both the frequency of women appearing in court on violent charges is increasing and also the severity of the violence," she said.

"In the end, the risk factors of violence and violent offending of women are the same as men."

Ms Adams said this may be because women were increasingly bearing the brunt of the responsibility in the family.

Under such pressure women were just as susceptible as men to resorting to violence to deal with employment issues, poverty, racial tension and drug and alcohol problems, Ms Adams said.

"The triggers are getting worse and worse. Women now play an increasing role in the family.

"If you have these nasty social pressures you're going to get this [women convicted for violence] more and more because they are the ones responsible.

"It's the women who are now wearing the burden and cracking under the strain.

"I think it's just that as a society we have huge issues."

But Ms Adams did not believe violence was any more acceptable now than it had ever been.

"I think the irony is that we are increasingly intolerant of violence ... but in the meantime the causes of violence are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

"It's a problem. It's a real problem that affects our community," she said.

Les Simmonds, Relationship Services clinical leader for Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, said the problem was a societal one, rather than a women's problem.

Society had changed over the past 50 years and so had women's roles, Mr Simmonds said.

"Theres's a huge amount of good stuff about that, it's really positive but it seems to me that [women] have taken on some of the things that men have done really badly, like violence, crime, alcohol and drug use."

Changing the society we live in was a more important priority than handing out tougher punishments to women who commit crime, he said.

"How do we make ourselves a more empathetic society? How do we get ourselves to resolve things without violence?"

Census figures for the Tauranga urban area indicate the number of females almost doubled from 26,295 females in 1981 to 54,114 in 2006, the year of the last census.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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