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Homicides fall to record low

Published: 11 Oct 2016 09:30

Matheson: work goes on to keep driving down violent crime.

The number of homicides in Scotland fell to their lowest on record last year – and around half their level from a decade ago, according to official figures published today.

A total of 57 homicide cases were recorded by police in Scotland in 2015-16 – representing an 8% fall on the previous year and 52% down on the 119 cases recorded in 2006-07.

The figure of 57 – contained in a new bulletin published by Scotland's Chief Statistician today – is the lowest number for a single twelve-month period since 1976, the first year for which comparable data are available.

Responding to the figures, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Mr Matheson said:

"While it is encouraging to see continued falls in homicide cases alongside the long-term decline in violent crime, the sustained efforts that have helped achieve this – through education and enforcement – must continue, because each of the lives lost is one life too many.

"There is a clear role across a range of public services, in addition to the critical work of our police, to continue to support communities that may remain at risk from violent crime and to challenge irresponsible attitudes both to alcohol misuse and to so-called 'casual' violence.

"We will continue to work with partners and invest in a range of projects to help steer our young people away from the risks of a life of violence and crime, while also ensuring our law enforcement agencies and the courts have the powers and resources needed to deal with those who do harm to others."

Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said:

"We welcome the fall in homicides to the lowest level recorded in modern times but we must never forget the impact a homicide has on the victims' family, friends and on their communities. We are committed to working with partners to ensure that prevention work through education and community initiatives continues across the country to endeavour, with the support of communities, to drive these figures down even further.

"Major Investigation Teams (MIT) in Police Scotland ensure a strong group of experienced specialist investigators support local policing wherever and whenever a homicide occurs. The teams have delivered a consistent and professional approach to all such investigations using specialist skills and the latest investigative techniques and technologies which delivers flexibility and equity of service throughout Scotland."

Notes to editors

The full statistical publication can be accessed at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/10/1834

The bulletin shows that a sharp instrument remains the most common method of killing in Scotland and accounted for 51% of homicides (or 29) in 2015-16. Nearly all these cases (26 out of 29) involve a knife. While the majority of the accused had an unknown status for alcohol and drugs, 31% (or 20 people) were identified by the police as being under the influence of alcohol or alcohol and drugs.

Since 2006-07 the Scottish Government has invested more than £10.5 million in a range of violence reduction programmes during which time non-sexual violent crime has more than halved (down 52%) – including a 45% fall in serious assault and attempted murder - and is at its second lowest level since 1974. This is supported by the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, which shows a 41% fall between 2008-09 and 2014-15 in the number of violent incidents experienced by the people of Scotland (including those not reported to the police).

On-going education and prevention programmes supported by the Scottish Government include:

• The national Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) – with over £7.6 million invested since 2008 – which works with partner agencies on a range of projects to achieve long-term societal and attitudinal change, and, by focusing on enforcement, to contain and manage individuals who carry weapons or who are involved in violent behaviour.

• The No Knives Better Lives (NKBL) knife crime prevention programme which supports local partners (council, police, youth work services etc.) to deliver a range of youth engagement activities to communicate the risks and consequences of carrying a knife to children and young people and encourage them to make more positive life choices.

• The Mentors in Violence Prevention programme delivered in secondary schools which aims to empower young people to safely challenge and speak out against bullying, abuse and violent behaviours, including gender-based violence and attitudes and assumptions towards women and girls.

• The Emergency-Department-based 'Navigator' support service that aims to support people away from violence and was recently awarded funding to extend its existing service at Glasgow Royal Infirmary to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for a 12-month period.

In the past year (2014-15 to 2015-16) there has been a 5% decrease in crimes of handling an offensive weapon and a fall of 69% since 2006-07, while the number of young people under 19 convicted of handling an offensive weapon fell from 811 in 2006-07, down to 146 in 2014-15.

The average custodial sentence length for handling offensive weapons has tripled over the last ten years, from 118 days in 2005-06 to 370 days in 2014-15, and earlier this year the Government increased the maximum custodial sentence available to the courts for handling offensive weapons and knife possession offences from 4 to 5 years.