Recorded crime down as sex abuse reports rise

Recorded crime is at its lowest since 1974. Picture: John Devlin
Recorded crime is at its lowest since 1974. Picture: John Devlin
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Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to a 41-year low despite the number of sex crimes reported to police reaching the highest level since 1971, new figures have revealed.

A total of 256,350 crimes were recorded in 2014-15, down from 270,397 the previous year and the lowest total since 1974.

But the latest figures on recorded crime also show sexual crimes rose by 11 per cent last year, from 8604 to 9557, which is the highest total for 44 years.

That includes 1901 reported rapes and attempted rapes – a five per cent rise from 2013-14 and 68 per cent higher than the total from 2010-11.

The continued increase in the number of sexual offences is in part due to a rise in people coming forward to report historic crimes to the police.

Last month, the News told how the number of reported sex attacks in the Capital was up 70 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2014.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the rise in reported sex crimes reflected the “general upward trend of the past few years”, and added: “Police Scotland has made clear that around 45 per cent of the increase is due to a rise in historic reporting and may also be down to more victims of current crimes coming forward.

“Police and prosecutors have improved the way they investigate and prosecute sexual crime with, for example, the single police service using 
better investigation techniques, setting up a new National Rape Taskforce, and the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU), a specialist unit to support the investigation of complex child abuse and neglect across Scotland.”

Sexual offences now account for four per cent of all recorded crimes, with the report stating these have been on a “long-term upward trend since 1974, and have increased each consecutive year since 2008-9”.

But it said Police Scotland had advised there are a “number of factors that may explain the rise in sexual crimes”, including increased reporting of historic offences, with victims coming forward after police operations or prosecutions.

Recorded crimes of dishonesty – such as theft and shoplifting – fell by eight per cent over the last year to 126,857 in 2014-15, with the figures also showing a four per cent fall in fire-raising, vandalism and similar offences to 52,091.

The clear-up rate for all recorded crimes decreased slightly over the year from 51.5 per cent to 50.4 per cent, although this is the third highest clear-up rate on record since 1976.