WOMEN must feel safe to walk Scotland’s streets “without fear” after a spate of “abhorrent” rapes and sex attacks in Glasgow, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said.
The cabinet Secretary pledged action is being taken to solve a number of recent attacks in the city which prompted thousands of women to stage a “Midnight March” last night to “reclaim” the streets
Mr MacAskill revealed he has spoken personally to Police Scotland Chief Constable Stephen House about the issue, while police patrols have been stepped up the areas of Glasgow affected.
He told MSPs at Holyrood today: “The distressing sexual assaults which have taken place recently in the Glasgow area, including the incident last Sunday are very concerning.”
The Justice secretary said he cannot comment on the detail of ongoing cases.
But he added: “Action is being taken.
“Police Scotland immediately launched an extensive inquiry and employed a large team of specialist investigators supported by local officers.”
A 24-year-old woman was raped by two men in Dixon Road in Govanhill last month, following a sexual assault in nearby Dixon Avenue in February. Also last month a 33-year-old woman was gang-raped by a group of Asian men on Edinbeg Avenue in nearby Toryglen.
A man was arrested today after a woman was raped in the Merchant City area at the weekend.
Police Scotland have since stepped up foot and car patrols in the city centre and areas of the South side where other attacks took place.
“It is important that our streets are capable of being walked on by anybody irrespective of their gender or age or indeed disability and to be able to be done so without fear,” Mr MacAskill added.
“All of us this in the chamber, irrespective of our political views, share the abhorrence at what has taken place and give our full support to law enforcement.”
A dedicated rape investigation unit is looking into the Glasgow attacks and this will be complemented by a national rape task force.
Labour’s Anne McTaggart said she had taken part in the “Midnight March” which saw thousands of Glaswegians walk through the South side areas where some of the attacks have taken place.
“I joined thousands of Glaswegians who want to reclaim their streets from sex offenders and who object to the idea that they should have stay indoors for their own safety,” she said.
She also raised concerns that police patrols have been cut as a result of officers being forced to fill backroom administrative duties as a result of cuts which came with the introduction of the new national Police Scotland force.
“Under this Government there are at least 1727 fewer police support staff than there were in March 2010,” she said.
“Current statistics do not account for the increase in backroom officers and the Government does not make information available on the number of officers who are patrolling our streets.”
She called for Mr MacAskill to commit to an increase in the number of officers actively patrolling the streets even after the offenders in the current cases are caught.
Mr MacAskill insisted that violent crime is down and currently at a 38-year low, but a minority of individuals “inflict harm on communities.”
He will meet with Rape Crisis Scotland tomorrow and will be ready to take up suggestions the organisation has.