Recorded crime in Scotland drops to lowest level in 40 years

Police jacket

Recorded crime in Scotland has dropped by 4% to its lowest levels since 1974 but there has been an increase in the number of sex crimes reported.

The official Scottish government statistics showed a total of 246,243 crimes were recorded by Police Scotland last year - a drop of 4% since 2014/15.

However, the figures showed a 7% increase in sex crimes, the highest number since 1971.

Ministers said this included a significant number of historical cases.

Senior officers said the statistics also partly reflected an increased level of confidence in reporting sex crime.

Police Scotland recorded more than 10,000 sexual crimes last year - 53% more than in 2006/07.

The police clear-up rate for all crimes stood at 51.6% - an increase of 1.2 percentage points on the previous year

Historical cases

The National Statistics publication for the Scottish government also found:

  • Violent crime increased by 7% to 6,775 in 2015/16 - but was at its second lowest level since 1974
  • A total of 10,273 sexual crimes were recorded - an increase of 7% on the previous year
  • Crimes of dishonesty fell by 9%
  • Crimes like vandalism and fire-raising increased by 4% but they remained 58% lower than in 2005/6
  • Other crimes (mostly drug related or crimes against public justice) fell by 4%
  • Crimes of handling offensive weapons fell to their lowest level since 1984, down to 3,111

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said the increased number of sexual crimes included a "significant number" of historical cases.

He said he was pleased with the statistics and grateful for the "excellent work" of Scotland's police officers and their colleagues in other agencies.

He added: "While higher levels of recorded sexual crime are broadly in line with UK trends, include a significant number of historical cases and may reflect greater willingness by victims to come forward, such incidents are completely unacceptable.

"This is why we have taken tough action to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

"Since 2006-07 we have also invested more than £10.5m in a range of violence reduction programmes during which time violent crime has more than halved (down 52%) and is at its second lowest level since 1974.

"Today's report also indicates that female victims of common assault were far more likely than men to be assaulted by a partner or ex-partner - underlining why the Scottish government has committed an additional £20m over three years to tackle violence against women, alongside our plan to strengthen legislation against all forms of domestic abuse."

Crime in Scotland 2015/16


Total number of crimes recorded


Police clear-up rate

  • 53% Increase in the number of reported sex crimes over 10 years.

  • 52% drop in violent crime since 2006/07.

  • 58% fall in fire-raising, vandalism, etc in last decade.


Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said the overall recorded "crime picture" was largely positive.

But he added: "The increase in the report of sexual crime is in part a reflection of the increased level of confidence the public has in reporting this type of crime to the police with the knowledge that every complaint will be handled sensitively and professionally. This equally applies to reports of historical abuse.

"We recognise the increase in crimes of violence and although this remains low in a historical context, we continue to work with partners in communities to tackle violence and address the influence that alcohol plays in many of these crimes.

"The recorded crime statistics are an important barometer on the level of service that the public get from Police Scotland, but they are only part of the picture.

"On a daily basis officers and staff provide help, advice and assistance on many different subjects ranging from anti-social behaviour, missing persons and mental health issues.

"In addition, we are developing a better understanding of the demands on modern policing in relation to issues such as cybercrime and online child exploitation which will be a focus for us in the future.

"Police Scotland will continue to engage with the public to identify issues in local communities across Scotland that will direct and inform the shape of policing for the future."

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: "While overall recorded crime is falling in Scotland it is extremely concerning that the level of sexual crimes against children continues to rise.

"The figures will partially reflect the improved reporting by police, historical offences and the confidence in victims of coming forward but we know from our own research that the number of child sex offences reported to police continues to rise.

"It is vital that the Scottish government, Police Scotland and others tackle this very real problem with the urgency it needs."

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