Sex crimes rise by 7% as overall crime declines

Sex crimes have increased by 7%. Picture John Devlin

Sex crimes have increased by 7%. Picture John Devlin

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More than 10,000 sex crimes were reported to Police Scotland in a year, despite recorded crime falling to its lowest level since 1974.

New statistics show sex crimes, including rape and sexual assault, increased 7% to 10,273 in Scotland between 2014-15 and 2015-16 to the highest level in 45 years.

A total of 43% of sex crimes recorded involved child victims.

Non-sexual violent crime, including attempted murder and serious assault, also rose 7% in the same period, to 6,775.

Vandalism and fire-raising crimes increased 4% year on year to 54,226, while crimes of dishonesty, such as theft, housebreaking and shoplifting, fell 9% to 115,789.

The “other crimes” category, which includes drug misuse, resisting arrest and handling offensive weapons, fell 4% to 59,180.

Overall recorded crime has dropped 4% to 246,243.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson praised Police Scotland’s “excellent” work.

He added: “I am very pleased that Scotland now has the lowest rate of recorded crime in 42 years, including reductions in drug crime, theft and handling offensive weapons over the last year.

“While higher levels of recorded sexual crime are broadly in line with UK trends, these include a significant number of historical cases and may reflect greater willingness by victims to come forward, such incidents are completely unacceptable. This is why we have taken tough action to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Opposition politicians and abuse charities called for further action to tackle rising sex crimes.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish Government may crow about what it sees as record-low levels of crime, but that doesn’t tell the whole story - and will be of no comfort to the increasing number of victims of sexual crime.

“Reporting of historic crime may make up part of this, but it’s clear there is an extremely alarming trend here.”

He called on the SNP to change the community sentencing system “which sees some serious criminals like rapists and child sex offenders escaping jail”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “Despite the overall fall in recorded crime the number of sexual crimes recorded increased for the seventh year in a row - this time by 7%.

“More than four in 10 cases involved child victims. Our police officers face huge challenges to keep us safe. It is time that the Scottish Government got serious about backing our police.”

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said the rise of sex crimes against children is “extremely concerning” and he called on the authorities to “tackle this very real problem with the urgency it needs”.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The increase in the report of sexual crime is in part a reflection of the increased level of confidence the public has in reporting this type of crime to the police with the knowledge that every complaint will be handled sensitively and professionally. This equally applies to reports of historical abuse.

“We recognise the increase in crimes of violence and although this remains low in a historical context, we continue to work with partners in communities to tackle violence and address the influence that alcohol plays in many of these crimes.”

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