CONVICTIONS for sexual crimes in Scotland rose 11 per cent over a year despite falling for almost all other types of offence, according to new figures.
There were 866 convictions for sexual crimes in the year 2012/13, an increase from 783 in 2011/12.
Rape and attempted rape convictions increased by 57 per cent over the same period, from 49 to 77. Convictions for sexual assault rose by 37 per cent, from 150 to 206, and other sexual crimes were up 15 per cent from 384 to 441.
Statisticians link the higher number of sexual offence convictions to a widening of the definition of rape that came into force in December 2010.
Crimes of violence decreased 13 per cent over the same period, with the exception of homicides, where the figure of 113 was two per cent higher.
The number of people convicted under the age of 21 fell by 21 per cent, from 15,082 to 11,966 in the year to 2012/13, while overall convictions fell seven per cent.
The figure for those subject to proceedings in Scottish courts also fell by seven per cent to 116,623, the largest annual fall in the last decade.
Convictions resulting in a custodial sentence fell by seven per cent to 14,758 while community sentences increased by two per cent to 17,254.
The number of sentences of six months or less also dropped by eight per cent to 9804.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the rise in convictions for rape and attempted rape, as well as a nine per cent increase in the average sentence of those found guilty, to more than six-and-a-half years.
He said: “These types of cases can be harder to prove as they are often committed in private. This demonstrates to victims that our law enforcement agencies and our courts are working hard to tackle these evil crimes, secure the convictions of the guilty.
“Clearly, there is more work to be done to remove the barriers to such cases going forward and that is one of the reasons why we want to remove the unjust requirement for corroboration.”
Mr MacAskill also welcomed figures showing the average sentence for handling an offensive weapon has increased almost three-fold since 2003/04.
He said: “Crime in Scotland has fallen to a 39-year low and the 1000 extra police officers we have put in our communities since 2007 are helping to keep clear up rates at a record high. The decreases in recorded crime in recent years are now impacting on the number of people proceeded against in court – down seven per cent in the past year - and an associated seven per cent decrease in overall convictions.
“What today’s figures show is that our courts are ensuring that serious offenders receive lengthy prison sentences.
“While convictions for handling an offensive weapon have fallen by 51 per cent since 2006/07, the average sentence on conviction is now 346 days - up 11 per cent in the past year - and three times higher than the average sentence for the same crime in 2003/04.
“The knife crime figures show that the combination of tough enforcement action, education and diversionary activity is paying off.”