Busselton Jetty
Busselton Jetty Shirley Sinclair

Female prisoner numbers skyrocket

FEMALE criminals can no longer rely on the sympathy of judges and jurors, who are now putting women behind bars in record numbers.

The number of women doing time in NSW has rocketed from 682 to 1067 in the past seven years. Last year 121 were sentenced to jail every month on average - up from 71 a month in 2011.

Criminologists said the cause was ­better policing, drugs and abusive relationships triggering more crime, and a less sympathetic ­justice system.

Rachel Pfitzner was sentenced to more than 25 years in jail for murdering her toddler son in 2007.
Rachel Pfitzner was sentenced to more than 25 years in jail for murdering her toddler son in 2007.

"Judges, jurors and the police are distinguishing less between men and women who repeatedly offend and commit violent offences," said Xanthe Mallett, a criminology lecturer at Newcastle University.

"Women are being handed the same tough custodial sentences as men, there's less gender biasing and discrimination towards women in the courtroom."

Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said drugs and ­violent relationships were leading to more crimes by women.

Megan Haines is loaded into a prison van.
Megan Haines is loaded into a prison van.

"From my observations, there are a lot more women committing spontaneous attacks against people they don't know due to paranoia and drug-induced psychosis," he said.

"I'm not sympathetic to what they do but it's systemic and due to circumstance. They might live with a man who throws them around, feeds their drug habit, and the violence is perpetuated into them committing violent crimes."

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures reveal police are charging more women with theft, drugs, vehicle offence and violent acts.

Xanthe Mallet says there is now less gender bias in sentencing. Picture: Richard Dobson
Xanthe Mallet says there is now less gender bias in sentencing. Picture: Richard Dobson

An average of 2219 women a month went before the courts in 2017, compared with 1815 in 2011.

To help cope, Corrective Ser­vices is building 500 extra beds for women at the 94-bed Mary Wade Correctional Centre for women at Lidcombe and repurposing ­Berrima Correctional Centre to take in 75 women.

Among women recently locked up is Louise Spiteri-Ahern, who last month was sentenced to 18 years for paying a hitman to gun down her ex-lover.

Louise Catherine Spiteri-Ahern leaves for prison last month.
Louise Catherine Spiteri-Ahern leaves for prison last month.

Earlier this year Susan Jongsma was sentenced to 4 ½ years for driving her car into her ex-boyfriend.

Ballina nurse Megan Haines was jailed for at least 27 years for murdering two residents at a NSW aged-care facility by injecting them with lethal doses of insulin.

 

JAIL BUY-UP NOW CENTRAL IN BABY KILLER'S LIFE

SHE was a police officer's daughter, an aspiring Olympian who worked at a prestige private school on Sydney's leafy north shore.

But these days convicted baby killer Keli Lane is living her life between the walls of Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre.

Keli Lane is is often seen in the communal phonebox speaking to her teenage daughter about school exams and homework.
Keli Lane is is often seen in the communal phonebox speaking to her teenage daughter about school exams and homework.

Jailed for murdering her baby daughter Tegan seven years ago, Lane's existence now revolves around the prison buy-up where she sells soaps, deodorants, lollies, drinks, chips and bags of rice to other inmates.

The role has earned Lane, 43, the nickname "Queen Bea" - after the Wentworth TV show character.

When she's not working, sources say Lane is often seen in the communal phonebox speaking to her teenage daughter about school exams and homework.

Her boyfriend Patrick Cogan, who pays her regular visits, said she had chosen to turn "gay for the stay".

"She has got close to other women, she needs to survive," Mr Cogan told The Saturday Telegraph.

"The truth is weirder than a lie, but I believe her and love her.

"I'm waiting for the day she comes out and we can be a family."

Haines murdered two women in 2014 by poisoning. Picture: Channel 7
Haines murdered two women in 2014 by poisoning. Picture: Channel 7
Keli Lane was convicted over the death of her newborn baby.
Keli Lane was convicted over the death of her newborn baby.


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