‘Shocking’ rise in violent and sexual offences

Convictions for violent and sexual offences are on the rise despite an overall fall in the number of cases coming before Scotland’s courts.

The number of cases involving prison sentences fell to the lowest level for ten years. Picture: contributed

Official statistics show the number of convictions for crimes of violence increased 5 per cent in 2017-18, including rises in attempted murder, serious assault and a 17 per cent jump in homicides.

The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape increased by 8 per cent, while convictions for sexual assault increased by 14 per cent.

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The increases come despite an 11 per cent decrease in the number of people proceeded against in court (95,254) and a 10 per cent fall in the number of people convicted (82,716).

Labour highlighted the fact that increasing numbers of people convicted of homicide (which includes crimes such as murder, culpable homicide and death by dangerous driving) and of sexual assault received no jail time.

The party’s justice spokesman, Daniel Johnson, said: “These figures will shock many people across Scotland. Labour supports a rehabilitative approach to justice but a situation which sees convicted killers not receive jail sentences, simply isn’t right.

“These figures will be a source of distress to victims of violent crime and break down trust in the system.”

The number of prison sentences fell by 6 per cent to their lowest level since 2008-9, while the proportion of sentences of under three months fell one percentage point to 27 per cent, compared with 41 per cent in 2008-9.

The average length of a custodial sentence, excluding life sentences, was ten and a half months.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “These figures are a worrying insight into the increasing levels of violent and sexual crime and demonstrate again the SNP’s inability to manage our justice system.

“It is extremely worrying that convictions for violent crime, sexual assault and rape have all increased when convictions overall have decreased.”

The overall fall in convictions was driven by falls in breach of the peace (down 11 per cent), common assault (13 per cent), speeding (12 per cent) and drugs (15 per cent).

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Tackling violent crime remains a key priority and recorded violent crimes have fallen 49 per cent since 2006-7, to one of the lowest levels seen since 1974.

“In that period we have invested more than £17 million in violence reduction programmes, including support for the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence, who work to develop violence prevention initiatives.”