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Recorded sex crimes in Scotland reach highest level since 1971, figures show

New figures on crimes reported to the police in 2021-22 showed sexual crimes have reached the highest level since 1971 (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
New figures on crimes reported to the police in 2021-22 showed sexual crimes have reached the highest level since 1971 (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Sex crimes increased by 15% last year to the highest level in over five decades, new figures have showed.

Despite statistics revealing there had been an overall drop in crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2021-22 – the number of sexual crimes rose to 15,049, the highest total since 1971.

Meanwhile, non-sexual crimes of violence also increased, going from 61,913 in 2020-21 to 69,826 the following year.

The Conservatives claimed the figures showed “violent and sexual crime is spiralling out of control” while the Scottish  Liberal Democrats accused the SNP of “presiding over a wave of violent and sexual crime”.

The Scottish Government, however, insisted that with recorded crime overall at the lowest level since 1974, “Scotland continues to be a safe place to live”.

The comments came as statistics for 2021-22 revealed sexual crimes accounted for 5% of all crimes reported in Scotland last year – with the report noting this continued a “long-term, upward trend”.

According to the data, cases of rape and attempted rape rose by 9% to 2,498 last year – accounting for almost one in five (17%) of all reported sexual crimes.

The number of sexual crimes that were cyber crimes is estimated to have risen from 1,100 in 2013-14 to 4,210 in 2021-22 – with the report noting: “The increase in sexual cyber-crimes has also had an impact on the trend of recorded sexual crimes in recent years.”

It added that the “historical reporting of sexual crime also continues to play a role in the latest statistics”, with the report detailing how information from the police suggested that almost a quarter (23%) of sexual crimes in 2021-22 being reported at least one year after they occurred.

Overall, the report told how crimes recorded by the police in Scotland fell by 4% in 2021-22, going from 299,452 to 286,464 to reach the lowest level since 1974.

This fall was driven by a 81% reduction in crimes recorded under Coronavirus related legislation – with such crimes dropping from from 20,976 to 3,913.

Crimes of dishonesty accounted for almost a third (32%) of all recorded crime in 2021-22, with non-sexual crimes of violence amounting to 24%.

The report noted that crimes of murder and culpable homicide “accounted for a very small proportion” of non-sexual crimes of violence, contributing less than 1% of non-sexual crimes of violence.

However, crimes of serious assault and attempted murder accounted rose by 9% between 2020-21 and 2021-22, going from 3,518 to 3,819.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said: “These grim statistics confirm that violent and sexual crime is spiralling out of control under the SNP – with violent crime now reaching its highest ever level since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.”

He added: “It is clearer than ever that justice and fighting crime is, disgracefully, no longer a priority for this SNP Government.”

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur also hit out at the Government, saying: “The SNP are presiding over a wave of violent and sexual crime.

“It’s absolutely absurd that on the day that sex crimes hit their highest ever level, the SNP are prioritising spending millions on another campaign to break up the UK over keeping communities safe.”

He added: “People need to know that if they are attacked or burgled, they can go to the police and their case will be investigated. Right now, many may simply not see the point.” 

Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur accused the SNP of ‘presiding over a wave of violent and sexual crime’ (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland continues to be a safe place to live. Recorded crime is at its lowest level since 1974, and considerably lower than a decade ago, with fewer victims. This includes crimes of dishonesty remaining at one of their lowest levels since 1971.

“The Scottish Government continues to invest in crime prevention and measures to tackle reoffending.

“More than £24 million has been invested into violence reduction programmes across Scotland since 2008, including over £16 million to support the work of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and more than £4.5 million to No Knives, Better Lives.”

The spokesperson said “robust action” had been taken to help the authorities tackle sexual offending “by improving and making the operation of our sexual offence laws much clearer, providing the necessary funding to support law enforcement efforts to deal with sexual offending and by encouraging more victims of recent and historical cases to come forward”.

They continued: “Our Victim Centred Approach Fund will provide £48 million to 23 organisations across Scotland over the period of 2022 to 2025. This includes £18.5 million for specialist advocacy support for survivors of gender-based violence.

“Police officer numbers in Scotland also remain significantly up from 2007, and are favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK with around 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around only 23 officers per 10,000 population in England and Wales.”