Working towards a gender responsive CRIMINAL justice system

Women's Justice Initiative


Women in prison are too often there because of flaws within our criminal justice system.

The Centre’s Women Justice Initiative uses impact litigation to challenge these injustices and fight for women experiencing multiple and severe disadvantage.

There are too many women in prison who don't need or deserve to be there. More than 80% of the women in prison are there for low level, non-violent offences and about half of the women in prison are there for theft. 

Most women are sentenced to very short lengths of time - in fact nearly 70% of women in prison are serving six months or less. This isn't enough time for any meaningful rehabilitation, but is enough time to lose your home, your children and your job.

Women in prison are also a highly vulnerable group, with nearly half of women inside reporting having suffered domestic violence or sexual abuse.

Many of these women do not need to be in prison. We need a justice system that is responsive to the root causes of crime and seeks to rehabilitate women, rather than torpedo their lives.  

We represent women who are severely and multiply disadvantaged, seeking to challenge their sentences or convictions.

The Women's Justice Initiative aims to represent:

  • Women imprisoned for minor, non-violent offences

  • Women sent to prison instead of being given the help they need at a psychiatric hospital

  • Women imprisoned for crimes which were actually an act of self-defence against an abuser

  • Innocent women prisoners, especially those whose ‘crime’ was in fact accidental or the result of natural causes.

If you know a woman in prison whose case fits our criteria, get in touch.

The Initiative is generously supported by the Lankelly Chase Foundation, and is an expansion of the Centre’s previous Women’s Sentencing Project.

End Council Tax Imprisonment


Debtors’ prison alive and well in 2018 

As hard as it is to believe, between 2010 and 2017, nearly 700 people were sent to prison for not paying their council tax. Many of these people were simply unable to pay when the time came due to personal crises – they were not deliberately avoiding their obligations. 

The Centre has represented and won on appeal a number of cases of women imprisoned for the non-payment of council tax. Several of these women were bailed from prison and their prison sentence found unlawful. 

Even a short time in prison can have a particularly serious detrimental impact on mental health and social circumstances for women and their children. Prison can cause women to become homeless, have their children taken away and struggle to recover from the trauma of the experience 

It's time to end sending women to prison for civil offences such as the non-payment of council tax. Click through to read more about this issue and to take action to end this practice. 

Wales trailblazes as it ends prison sentences for council tax debts

In November 2018, Wales announced it would end the use of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax. This enormous success was due in large part to the amazing campaigning work done by CCA supported Melanie Woolcock, a woman wrongfully imprisoned for being poor. Our campaign efforts were cited in the Government consultation document on ending the practise, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our supporters and allies, so thank you!