Scotland's homicide numbers at lowest level for 40 years

The number of homicides in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years, new figures show.

Homicides are at their lowest level since 1976

Details released by the Scottish Government show there were 57 murders and culpable homicides recorded by the police in 2015/16 – down eight per cent on the previous year and 52 per cent on the 119 cases recorded in 2006/7.

But despite the reduction in numbers, the figures show Scotland continues to have problems with knife carrying and alcohol-fuelled violence.

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More than half of the cases involved a “sharp instrument”, most commonly a knife, while 31 per cent of those accused were identified by police as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “While it is encouraging to see continued falls in homicide cases alongside the long-term decline in violent crime, the sustained efforts that have helped achieve this – through education and enforcement – must continue, because each of the lives lost is one life too many.

“There is a clear role across a range of public services, in addition to the critical work of our police, to continue to support communities that may remain at risk from violent crime and to challenge irresponsible attitudes both to alcohol misuse and to so-called ‘casual’ violence.”

The 14 homicide cases recorded in Glasgow in 2015/16 account for a quarter of the total, despite the city having just 11 per cent of Scotland’s population.

However, the city has seen a 58 per cent fall in homicide numbers since 2006/7 – accounting for almost one third of the overall national decrease.

Across Scotland. there has been a five per cent decrease in crimes of handling an offensive weapon in the past year and a fall of 69 per cent since 2006-07.

The number of young people under 19 convicted of handling an offensive weapon fell from 811 in 2006-07, down to 146 in 2014-15.

Initiatives such as the Violence Reduction Unit and the No Knives, Better Lives campaign have been credited with helping reduce crimes of violence, but the overall trend experienced in Scotland is in keeping with the rest of the developed world.

Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said: “We welcome the fall in homicides to the lowest level recorded in modern times but we must never forget the impact a homicide has on the victims’ family, friends and on their communities.

“We are committed to working with partners to ensure that prevention work through education and community initiatives continues across the country to endeavour, with the support of communities, to drive these figures down even further.

“Major Investigation Teams ensure a strong group of experienced specialist investigators support local policing wherever and whenever a homicide occurs. The teams have delivered a consistent and professional approach to all such investigations using specialist skills and the latest investigative techniques and technologies which delivers flexibility and equity of service throughout Scotland.”