Rise in violent attacks on Scottish rail passengers triggers British Transport Police concern

An increase in violent attacks on Scottish rail passengers has prompted concern from one of British Transport Police’s (BTP) most senior officers.

A 17 per cent rise in violent offences between April and June compared to a year ago has been recorded by the force, along with a “significant” increase in public order incidents.

Deputy Chief Constable Alistair Sutherland said: "We have seen a rise in the number of violence offences against passengers in this first quarter [of 2022/23].

"That’s obviously a concern to us.”

Chief Superintendent Gill Murray, British Transport Police's Scotland commander, said passenger confidence over anti-social behaviour was key. Picture: John Devlin

The total number of such offences increased to 103, while fewer were solved.

The clear-up rate was 41 per cent – 22 percentage points down on 2021.

BTP has linked the increase to busier post-Covid trains and more people going out at night, with alcohol “often a key instigating factor with main hub locations most affected”.

Mr Sutherland also told a meeting of the Scottish Railways Policing Committee: “In terms of public order offences against passengers, there has been a significant increase there as well.”

These increased by 27 per cent to 370, with a solved rate of 26 per cent – 15 points down on a year ago.

But Mr Sutherland said there was “better news” on offences against rail staff.

He said: “In terms of overall violence, we have seen a slight increase, but our solved rate in detecting those offenders and bringing them to justice remains really high.

"I’m fairly confident in saying it’s the highest solved rate for that type of offence within BTP.”

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Total such offences increased by 19 per cent to 25, but the clear-up rate was up by 17 points to 83 per cent.

Mr Sutherland said public order offences against rail staff had seen a “slight drop off” of 10 per cent to 53, with the clear-up rate also up, by 10 points to 32 per cent.

He said said BTP’s Scotland commander, Chief Superintendent Gill Murray, and her team “had done a really job in focusing their energy and resources into dealing with those assaults”.

A BTP report to the committee also pointed to a “potential downward trend in youth-related violence”.

It said: “The threat of violence has been a key theme with youth offending and this is down by 27 per cent,” with 37 instances of threatening or abusive behaviour offences compared with 51 last year.

Ms Murray said ScotRail’s dedicated “travel safe team”, introduced last October and being tripled from nine to 28 staff, had been a “real, big benefit” in working with BTP “at the right places at the right time”.

She said: “We are very conscious that for anti-social behaviour, the confidence in our passengers and staff is key for us.”

She said BTP’s campaign for people to become “active bystanders” to reduce violence against women and girls by reporting incidents or safely intervening was “paying dividends” and may be copied by Police Scotland.

The number of offences increased by 2 per cent to 42, with the clear-up rate up by 3 points to 74 per cent, which CS Murray described as “very good”.

ScotRail security and crime manager Steven Elliot said it worked very closely with BTP to clamp down on anti-social behaviour such as through staff body-worn cameras “which deter and prevent incidents from escalating”.