MP Philip Davies has strongly criticised the Government’s view that women criminals should not be sent to prison if possible.

Mr Davies, whose Shipley constituency includes Burley in Wharfedale and Menston, said a crime was a crime, whether committed by a male or a female, and showing leniency to women was unacceptable and sent out the wrong message.

“I would have hoped we all believe in equality between men and women,” he said.

“Surely that must mean the courts should be gender- blind so that women offenders are treated in exactly the same way as men.

“It is a scandal that this is not happening.”

Last month Ministry of Justice figures revealed in all categories of crimes men were more likely to be sent to prison than women.

The figures, uncovered by Mr Davies, also showed of 46,428 women tried for their first offences last year a total of 1,078 were sent to prison – 2.3 per cent.

In comparison 5.1 per cent of men – 6,490 of the 127,647 – went to jail.

Speaking in Justice Questions, Mr Davies challenged whether the figures were correct.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “It is always in the minds of the sentencers to try to avoid sentencing in particular female offenders to custody.

“Sometimes that is unavoidable and that is why we need to provide the necessary places in the female custodial estate.”

Mr Davies added: “I am not sure how those who are most vocal on the issue of equality can be the same people who believe that women should be given more favourable treatment by the courts than men. I believe in true equality and sentences should be handed out irrespective of the gender or race or religion or sexuality of the offender,” he said.

According to figures from the Howard League for Penal Reform: As of November 2012, the women’s prison population stood at 4,141, 63 fewer than the previous year.

Between 2000 and 2010 the women’s prison population increased by 26 per cent.

As of July 2012, 58 per cent of women entering prison served six months or less.