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Tackling violence against women

Published: 23 Feb 2016 09:30

More convictions for domestic abuse and sexual offences.

New figures released today showing an increase in the number of convictions for domestic abuse and sexual offences have been welcomed by the Justice Secretary.

Latest statistics for Criminal Proceedings in Scotland show a marked increase in the number of convictions for "breach of the peace", up by 13 per cent in 2014-15 to 15,580 convictions. This was driven by offences with a domestic abuse aggravator within the breach of the peace category, particularly for offences such as stalking or threatening and abusive behaviour.

There has also been an eight per cent increase in the overall number of convictions for sexual offences, up to 1,145 convictions. This in part reflects a 13 per cent increase in the number of people proceeded against for such offences and includes a 40 per cent rise in the number of convictions for "rape and attempted rape" and a 16 per cent increase in convictions for sexual assault.

An increase in the number of victims coming forward and a more consistent investigation and prosecution approach to sexual offences are potential factors behind the rise.

Other than life sentences for murder, custodial sentences for "rape and attempted rape" attracted the longest average custodial sentence at slightly over six and a half years.

Commenting on the figures Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

"Recorded crime in Scotland is now at its lowest level in 41 years and the country is becoming a safer place thanks to the combined efforts of our communities and law enforcement agencies backed by over 1,000 extra police officers since 2007.

"This Government is committed to tackling violence against women which is why it is extremely encouraging to see more convictions for those who seek to perpetrate domestic and sexual violence.

"Our police and prosecutors are already doing important work to tackle crimes of this nature for instance initial feedback from Police Scotland shows a real impact in building confidence in reporting has been made by the introduction of the National Rape Taskforce.

"We want victims to have the confidence to come forward and report domestic abuse and I hope that today's figures showing a stark rise in convictions for these types of crimes will help to drive home the message that Scotland will absolutely not tolerate domestic abuse or sexual offences.

"I have already set out bold proposals to improve the way the justice system responds to abusive behaviour, holds perpetrators to account for their actions and improves public safety as part of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill but we know that legislation alone is not enough to tackle this issue.

"That is why this is part of a wide range of measures we have put in place, including an investment of £20 million (2015-18) to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls.

"In contrast to the rise for sexual offences the number of convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence have dropped for the fourth year in a row. This is also encouraging as it reflects the picture presented by the latest recorded crime stats, that we are seeing fewer crimes of this nature."

The Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: "The number of convictions for rape, attempted rape and domestic abuse are at the highest for a decade, there were double the number of rape and attempted rape convictions last year than there were ten years ago.

"It is extremely encouraging that more victims have had the confidence to come forward to report these crimes. In recent years the Crown has set up a specialist Sexual Offences Unit led by experienced prosecutors and we have appointed specialists to lead Domestic Abuse investigations and this approach appears to have made a significant difference.

"I would like to assure anyone who has been a victim of these crimes that they will be treated with dignity and respect and their complaint will be thoroughly investigated."

The overall number of people convicted increased by less than one per cent to 106,507 in 2014-15 and the number of custodial sentences fell by one per cent to 13,977, now at their lowest level in ten years. In 2014-15 the average custodial sentence length, excluding life sentences, was around nine and a half months. This is 3 per cent shorter than in 2013-14 but 25 per cent longer than in 2005-06 (seven and a half months).

Notes to editors

A link to the latest Criminal Proceedings publication can be found at: www.gov.scot/stats/bulletins/01199