MURDERS and culpable homicides have fallen by more than a quarter in Scotland in the past decade and are down by 11 per cent on the previous year’s total, new figures have revealed.
The statistics also showed that there were 88 homicides in 2011-12 – one every four days – and 71 of the victims were men, which is four times the rate of women.
The most common form of homicide over the past decade has been with a sharp instrument – underlining Scotland’s difficulties with knife crime and which also accounted for 47 in 2011-12, more than half the total.
Justice secretary Kenny Mac-Askill said: “This government is working hard to ensure that Scotland is a safe place to live. A drop of 28 per cent in the number of homicide cases in the last decade shows we are making progress in the battle against violent crime.
“Following a further decrease of 11 per cent since last year, it is reassuring to see these figures are going in the right direction.
“However, this is no cause for celebration. Ninety lives have been lost. Behind these figures are victims and grieving families and my sincere sympathies go out to all those who have lost loved ones.”
The vast majority of victims of homicides – which include murders and the lesser charge of culpable homicide, but not death by dangerous driving, driving while intoxicated or corporate homicides – were males aged between 16 and 30.
More than half the crimes were committed in the home and almost a quarter on the street or a footpath. Alcohol remains a key factor, with almost 60 per cent of homicides in 2011-12 involving an accused who had been drinking, compared with fewer than 5 per cent who were on drugs.
“The number of people accused of homicide who are reported to be drunk underlines the importance of minimum pricing to tackle alcohol misuse,” Mr MacAskill said.
“No single action will bring about the change needed, which is why a package of over 40 measures in our Framework for Action aims to reduce consumption, support communities and encourage positive choices.”
The Scottish Government has launched a “no knives, better lives” campaign. But it has focused its attempts on tackling knife crime through education initiatives, while its political rivals have called for automatic jail sentences for people caught in possession of a blade.
The Scottish Conservatives also called for an end to automatic early release, where prisoners sentenced to four years or less are freed after serving half their term.
Chief whip John Lamont MSP said: “Any decrease in figures such as this is of course welcome. But the fact remains that, for a small country, these rates are too high.
“And what is more appalling is that the SNP continues to release convicted murderers when they have only served two-thirds, and sometimes even just half, of their sentence.”
Scotland’s cities have benefited from the fall in homicides. The Lothian and Borders area saw a decrease from 20 to 14, last year, with Edinburgh going from 12 to seven.
And Strathclyde, Scotland’s largest police force, saw homicides in its area fall from 62 to 51 in 2011-12, while Glasgow figures almost halved from 27 to 15 – a ten-year low.