THE number of people convicted of sex crimes has risen by 22 per cent in a year, new figures show.
Details from Scotland’s chief statistician show 1,053 people were convicted in 2013-14, up from 864 the previous year.
Overall, the number of people convicted of a crime in Scottish courts rose by 4 per cent – the first increase in seven years.
But the number being sent to prison fell to its lowest in nearly a decade, as the use of community payback orders and fines increased.
The Scottish Government said the number of sex crimes was “unacceptably high”, but the rise in convictions was due to more victims coming forward following high-profile abuse scandals such as the Jimmy Savile case, as well as a recent widening of the definition of rape.
Within the 22 per cent increase, there was a 13 per cent rise in those being convicted of rape and attempted rape and a 15 per cent rise in sexual assault.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “Although the number of sexual crimes in Scotland is still unacceptably high, it is encouraging to see the number of convictions is up as we are seeing more victims coming forward and more cases reaching our courts.
“These types of cases can be harder to prove as they are often committed in private.
“However, victims should be assured that our law enforcement agencies and our courts are working hard to tackle these terrible crimes, secure the convictions of the guilty and ensure that they are punished.”
The figures show that 96 per cent of those convicted of rape and 46 per cent of those convicted of sexual assault received a custodial sentence.
The average sentence for rape and attempted rape remains relatively unchanged at just over six-and-a-half years – the longest sentence after murder.
However, the length of sentence for rape and attempted rape is now seven months shorter than at its peak in 2007-8.
The figures also show that the highest rate of not-guilty verdicts were in rape and attempted rape cases at 37 per cent.
Sexual assault cases and serious assault and attempted murder cases had high acquittal rates when compared with other offences (22 and 20 per cent respectively). The proportion of people receiving a not-proven verdict in 2013-14 was highest for rape and attempted rape (20 per cent), followed by sexual assault (9 per cent).
Overall, 14,101 offenders were given custodial sentences in 2013-14 – a fall of 5 per cent and the smallest number since 2004-5. At the same time, the use of community payback orders, which make up 90 per cent of community sentences, has “increased markedly” since being introduced in 2011, said the report. The number of people receiving fixed penalty notices for antisocial behaviour increased by 1 per cent, while there was a 9 per cent rise in fiscal fines.
The figures also show almost half of those taken to court under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 were acquitted.
A Crown Office spokesman said: “More people were convicted of rape in Scottish courts last year than in previous years due to the greater number of victims willing to come forward.
“The legal definition of rape has been widened and we continue to work with victims’ groups to explain these changes to the public. There has been a significant increase in rape convictions in recent years, including in the last year.
“However, we are not complacent and understand more needs to be done to tackle this appalling crime. We will continue to do all we can to support victims and to bring their cases to court.”
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