Recorded sexual crimes reach 43-year high
Recorded sexual crimes are at their highest level in more than four decades, latest figures published today reveal.
The number recorded by police rose 12 per cent from 7,693 in 2012-13 to 8,604 last year, the highest comparable records began in 1971.
Rape and attempted rape has seen the steepest increase in the last year, up by almost a quarter from 1,462 to 1,808.
Police chiefs credit around half of the year-on-year increase in sexual crimes to a jump in reports of historic crime whereby reports are made more than 12 months after the crime was committed.
The clear-up rate for sexual crimes is at its highest for a decade - up eight per cent in the space of a year - the figures show, with the largest increase seen in rape and attempted rape.
It comes as recorded crime in Scotland fell to a record 40-year low, with crimes down one per cent from 273,053 in 2012-13 to 270,397 in 2013-14. The clear-up rate for all recorded crimes is at its highest since comparable records began in 1976.
Violent crime is down 10 per cent to its lowest level since 1974, while crimes of handing an offensive weapon, including knives, dropped five per cent last year.
Cabinet Secretary designate for Justice, Michael Matheson – who took up the post as part of last week’s reshuffle – said the statistics demonstrated he was “inheriting a strong record of achievement in justice”.
The overall trend for sexual crimes is seen as being consistent with England and Wales, which witnessed a 20 per cent rise, as well as Northern Ireland, which saw a 16 per cent rise over the same period.
Sexual assault is the primary cause of a rise in sexual crimes, increasing by 13 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14. Rape and attempted rape is up 24 per cent, other sexual crimes increased by eight per cent, while crimes associated with prostitution were down eight per cent.
Statisticians pointed to a number of operations and campaigns undertaken by Police Scotland as a source of increased awareness, therefore encouraging more victims to report such crimes.
“We recognise that there is still work to do, the figures show an increase in sex crimes last year,” said Matheson. “Police Scotland have made clear that around half of the increase is due to a rise in historic reporting and may also be down to more victims of current crimes coming forward. We want victims to have confidence to report these crimes.
“The Scottish Government, police and prosecutors take the investigation and prosecution of these traumatic crimes extremely seriously, which is why we have strengthened the law around sex crimes by bringing in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.
“We are giving £3.6m funding to support victims of rape from 2012-15. Meanwhile the new national police service has improved investigation techniques, setting up a new National Rape Taskforce which treats rape as seriously as murder. It is also reassuring to see the best clear-up rate for these crimes in a decade.”
Dangerous and careless driving has gone up nine per cent year-on-year, driving under the influence is down six per cent, while seat belt and mobile phone offences are up 15 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.
Matheson suggested moves to lower the drink-driving limit, which comes into force on December 5, would help make Scotland’s roads safer amid an eight per cent rise in crimes of death by dangerous driving and a 12 per cent increase when it comes to careless driving.
Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House said: “The past two years has seen the biggest structural change to how policing is delivered in more than a generation. These figures demonstrate that our performance has remained strong throughout that period of unprecedented transition, the number of people becoming victims of crime continues to fall and that those who commit crime are more likely than ever to be caught.
“Policing in Scotland is tuned in to what the communities we serve tell us. Their greatest concerns across all 14 territorial policing divisions are what drive our priorities, combined with sharper intelligence and more effective ways of preventing crime and detecting offenders means we can be confident our communities are safer.
“That does not mean we can ever be complacent. We can always do more to enhance what we do and how we do it.”