Sexual offences in Scotland at highest level since records began

Recorded crime in Scotland has increased for the first time in 12 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).   

Sep 26, 2018
By Joe Shine
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf

Figures show there were 244,504 crimes recorded by Police Scotland in 2017/18, with clear-up rates at their lowest level for eight years.  

Sexual offences are also at their highest level since records began in 1971 – an increase of 13 per cent – which is in part due to the introduction in July last year of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act, making it an offence to disclose or threaten to disclose an intimate image.   

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor attributed the increase to victims feeling more confident to come forward and report sexual abuse.  

Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, non-sexual crimes of violence and crimes of dishonesty increased by one per cent, while fire-raising and vandalism fell by two per cent – the lowest level since 1978.  

Although total recorded offences were up by one per cent, the ONS notes that this was still the lowest number since 1974.  

And while violent crime was up by one per cent on the previous year – from 7,164 to 7,251 – it is still 43 per cent lower than 2008/09 figures.  

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Our approach to tacking violence in our communities is now held up as a model for the rest of the world, with London introducing a Violence Reduction Unit based on the success of the Scottish public health approach.   

“While any small rise in crime is disappointing, we remain focused with the police and other partners on keeping crime at historically low levels. That is why we’ve commissioned in-depth research into different aspects of violent crime – such as this robbery analysis – to help us better understand where crime is happening, why it is happening and who it is happening to. 

“It is also why we have set up an expert group looking at new action to prevent sexual crime, of which we know increases are being driven by a growth in online crime, greater confidence in reporting and a long-term rise in historical cases.” 

Ms Taylor added: “The number of robberies has almost halved in the past ten years and that is testament to the hard work of police officers and staff. I’m also reassured by the fall in the number of robberies in public places.  

“We continue to focus our efforts on prevention however when a crime occurs, it is treated as a priority and we will dedicate resources to ensure offenders are quickly identified and arrested.  

“Tackling violent crime is a national priority for Police Scotland and we engage with health, education, government and the licensed trade to address this. Total recorded crime is now lower than when Police Scotland came into being five years ago. 

“The increase in recorded sexual crime suggests victims feel more confident coming forward to report to us and we want to support and encourage people to continue doing this.  We will continue working with our partners and communities to improve our ability to keep people safe.”

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