Criminal convictions drop overall as prosecutions for sexual offences continue to rise

Written by Jenni Davidson on 20 January 2017 in Feature

The Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2015-16 statistics show a slight increase in convictions for sexual offences to the highest ever level

Crime scene tape - Image credit: Alan Cleaver via Flickr

The number of criminal convictions in Scotland overall fell below 100,000 for the first time last year, while the number of convictions for sexual offences reached an all-time high.

According to the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2015-16 statistics, published this week, criminal convictions fell below 100,000 to 99,950 for the first time on record in 2015/16.

This continues a general downward trend in crime rates over the last decade.


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There was a six per cent fall in the number of people convicted, against a fall of five per cent in the number of people proceeded against.

But although the number of people convicted for sexual crimes was the highest ever, it was broadly static against last year – 1,156 in 2015/16, up very slightly from 1,152 in 2014-15 – but 35 per cent more than the 857 convictions in 2006-07 and 53 per cent higher than the 756 convictions in 2010-11. 

The Scottish Government said the increase was due in part to an increased level of reporting of sex crimes in the wake of high profile cases, with a corresponding rise in the number of people being proceeded against in court, up 72 per cent from 933 proceedings in 2010-11 to 1,606 in 2015-16.

The number of convictions for domestic abuse in 2015/16 were at their second highest level on record.

Last year 12,374 people were convicted in Scotland’s courts for crimes and offences involving domestic abuse – compared to 8,566 in 2010-11 and the highest figure of 12,440 in 2014-15.

The statistics also that custodial sentences dropped by two per cent, while community sentences rose two per cent.

Commenting on the domestic abuse and sexual offences statistics, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Tackling the often ‘hidden’ crime of domestic abuse is a key priority for this government, so I welcome the fact our police and prosecutors continue to bring perpetrators to justice.

“However, I’m determined that our law enforcement agencies have the necessary powers to tackle this crime in all its forms.

“That is why I will shortly introduce to parliament legislation creating a new criminal offence of domestic abuse that will include psychological abuse which can be difficult to deal with under existing laws.”

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: "I have made clear that the Crown will continue to take a firm and rigorous prosecutorial approach to domestic abuse.

"The number of convictions shows that the approach which we take, which involves prosecutors working with colleagues across the criminal justice system, is working.

“Victims can have the confidence to come forward and report these crimes.

"For too long domestic abuse was not taken sufficiently seriously by the criminal justice system. Domestic abuse blights families and individuals.

“The public interest demands that, where there is a proper basis for doing so, the Crown should take action to address crimes involving domestic abuse."

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