Sexual crimes in Scotland at their highest level in five years, police report shows

Sexual crimes rose to the highest level recorded in the last five years last year, according to a new report.

The Police Scotland Quarter Three Performance Report showed that between April and December 2021, overall sexual crime increased by 13.7% (1,360 crimes) compared to the previous year and by 18% against the five-year average.

In total 11,266 sexual crimes were recorded.

It said that sexual assault and rape of females continue to be the main drivers for the overall increase in sexual crime, with a 10.4% increase in the number of rapes compared to the year before.

Meanwhile, overall hate crimes were at about the same level as the previous year, however, the report noted that an increase in hate crimes with disability, transgender and sexual orientation as aggravators was of concern.

The report said that overall violent crime between April and December (47,789) was in line with the five-year average (down 0.2%), although was 6.3% higher than the same period the year before.

It said this is likely to be due to the reduced levels of most types of violent crime as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Demand in the sexual crime and cybercrime spaces, in particular, have increased against the five-year average.

“This increase highlights how our response to online offending and public protection are very much a key part of frontline policing in a modern society.

“We are investing in our digital forensics capability and significant work is underway to implement our Cyber Strategy.

“Tackling sexual crime remains a key priority and we will continue to focus campaigns and enforcement in this area.”

There were 1,412 online child sexual abuse crimes recorded, a decrease of 8.8% (137 fewer crimes) compared to the year before and an increase of 12% on the five-year mean.

Police Scotland said its sexual crime prevention campaign, “Don’t Be That Guy”, seeks to reduce sexual offending by challenging male sexual entitlement and highlights the role men can play in recognising and challenging misogynist behaviour.

It is also developing an anti violence against women and girls strategy which will form part of its overarching public protection strategy and said a key part of this will be involving and listening to survivors.

The report also outlined findings of the service’s Your Police Survey between October and December 2021, during which more than 800 members of the public shared their views on policing in Scotland.

The survey showed that overall reported confidence in policing during this period (43%) has returned to levels closer to the 2019-20 average of 48%, following significantly higher results during 2020-21 (57%), when the most stringent Covid restrictions were in place.

Those surveyed said friendly and approachable police officers doing a difficult job in their communities were appreciated, while increased police visibility, especially during Cop26, was seen as a positive.

The main areas of concern for the public included anti-social behaviour and drug-related harm.

Ms Taylor said: “Successfully policing Cop26 and meeting the complex policing needs of our communities, while also responding to the challenges presented by coronavirus, meant that the Quarter 3 reporting period continued to be a demanding and relentless time for our committed officers and staff.

“To support effective policing, we took quick action to maximise the availability of officers and staff in frontline community based duties, including the deployment of more than 300 officers from specialist functions and over 250 probationary constables, with appropriate supervision, into local policing divisions.

“Probationary constables have now returned to their initial training and we will manage our recruitment in order to build our officer establishment to full strength over time.”

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