Rise in historic rape reports

The Meadows is sealed off in November 2014 following a sex attack. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

The Meadows is sealed off in November 2014 following a sex attack. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

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Edinburgh’s top police officer has hailed a rise in reported sexual assaults as proof that more victims have confidence to come forward.

More than half of all rapes reported in the Capital in 2014-2015 were historic cases, while reports of all indecent crimes hiked by a fifth.

The Capital’s divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, said the increase was a “more honest and fair reflection” of a crime level which has been “hidden for many years”.

He said he wanted the trend to continue to ensure that sexual offenders are brought to justice.

His comments were backed by charity Rape Crisis Scotland, which said victims appeared to have increasing confidence in police.

The raw figures, due to go before the city’s police scrutiny committee this week, come just months after it emerged that the number of people convicted of sex crimes has risen by 22 per cent in a year.

Police received 207 reports of rape in 2014-2015 – 95 of which were alleged to have taken place in that period.

The remaining cases were “historic” allegations, which happened before April 2014.

And a 21.2 per cent rise in indecency crimes as a whole – including rapes, assaults with intent to rape, indecent assaults and sexual assaults – equates to 180 more victims. The reports rose from 855 crimes in the preceding year to 1035.

Of these, 63 per cent were alleged to have taken place last year, with almost 100 more current cases in comparison with the previous year.

Ch Supt Mark Williams said: “Nationally, as well as in Edinburgh, there has been an increase in the reporting of sexual offences. This includes rape, and also indecencies and other sexual assaults.

“Over the last few years there’s been a big increase in the reporting of these crimes and we do want to encourage reporting to go up. I don’t expect this crime to go down.

“The truth is, we know that much of it is unreported and we really want the public and the victims to have the confidence to come forward.”

High-profile celebrity cases in the wake of Operation Yewtree and the Jimmy Savile scandal are believed to have prompted victims to come forward, with some claims dating back years or even decades. The trend corresponds with figures from the previous year, which showed a 12 per cent rise in the number of indecent crimes reported.

Of those, around a third were historic, either being committed in the 2012-2013 period, or before then.

He also hailed the opening of Scotland’s Child Abuse Investigation Unit in Livingston last week as a significant milestone.

Detectives solved 67.5 per cent of all indecent crimes last year, down slightly on the previous year. But the rape detection rate was up on last year – going from 65.8 per cent to 68.1 per cent.

Ch Supt Williams said a specialist team of detectives in the rape investigation unit were determined to bring sex offenders to justice. And he stressed that the majority of sexual crime is carried out by someone the victim knows.

He said: “It’s very rare that we have to deal with strangers in sexual assault. We did have one last year, in the Meadows, but in the main, much of the sexual crime is familial, it’s in a domestic, family or care setting. Much of it is historic and it’s growing in terms of reporting.”

Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland, welcomed the statistics.

She said: “What we are hearing from survivors is that there is an increased confidence, and police on the whole are getting positive feedback in how officers respond to rape complaints.”

Ms Brindley said the sea change appeared to have been influenced by changes made in the creation of Police Scotland.

She added: “We have had survivors who have mentioned high-profile cases, for example Savile. The publicity around that has prompted them to maybe speak about something that’s happened a long time.”

Success signs after ban on legal highs

The effects of legal highs have led to a rise in antisocial behaviour and hospital admissions, putting a strain on the emergency services.

But a 12-month temporary ban on five methylphenidate-based substances put in place earlier this month is already showing signs of success.

The stimulants, which were being mixed with heroin and injected to create a “lethal cocktail”, caused “bizarre” behaviour and a raft of health issues. There were also reports of a rising number of needles found in stairwells near so-called “head shops”.

Ch Supt Williams said there had been a “huge reduction” in antisocial behaviour in the Southside corridor since the ban was enforced. He said: “The shelves have been cleared in Edinburgh of those products. They are dangerous, they lead to bizarre behaviour and it’s concerning that they got such a grip so quickly.”

Southside/Newington councillor Jim Orr, who has campaigned for tougher action, said: “Traders have indicated to me that there has been a noticeable decrease in antisocial behaviour since the ban on NPS products so it is very welcome.”