Number of sex crimes reported to Police Scotland at record high

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The number of sex crimes recorded last year was the highest since Police Scotland was created

The number of sex crimes recorded by Police Scotland has gone up, according to the force's own figures.

In 2016/17 there were 10,822 cases reported - an increase of 5.2% on the previous year and a record high.

Two reports containing the latest statistics are due to be presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) next week.

They also highlight the fact that much of the increase came from non-recent cases and online offences.

BBC Scotland's home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson said the persistent rise in sexual offences, including rape, was against a general trend of reduced crime and had caused concern among police.

Online offences

In the year to the end of last March, 1,755 rapes were reported - with the figure up by 2.3%.

However, 41.5% of those rapes were classed as non-recent which means they were reported more than one year after they were committed. Recently-committed rapes were slightly down (1.6%).

According to campaigners, such as Rape Crisis Scotland, this reflected an increase in historical reporting as victims gain confidence that they will be believed.

The number of indecent or sexual assaults recorded rose 9.8% to 6,996. Of these, more than 2,000 were classed as non-contact - a rise of almost 10%.

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Most cases reported where the victim was under 13 were non-recent

Many of these were related to indecent communications by mobile phone or online.

The reports also looked at children and sex crimes.

As of the beginning of April 2017, the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit had been notified of 32 significant child abuse investigations from local policing divisions since January 2017. All were still live and ongoing and four of them had an "online footprint".

The reports said that the majority of rapes reported, where the victim was under 13, were non-recent and most were committed by a family member.

In reported rapes where the victim was 13-15, the majority were recent, but again, the majority were committed by a family member. Most reported rapes of children took place in either their own home or that of the abuser.

The two reports due to go before the SPA are Police Scotland's Performance Summary Report Quarter 4 and The Sexual Crime Overview.

The second of these concluded: "Police Scotland is committed to sustain and where possible improve its focus against sexual crimes to support and seek justice for those affected."

'Confidence in reporting'

Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland, said: "Police Scotland have undertaken a huge amount of work in recent years to improve responses to rape and make sure people have confidence in reporting this crime.

"I think what we are seeing now is an increase because of that.

"People are coming forward and reporting stuff that happened, maybe 10 or 20 years ago and they didn't feel able to report it at the time but now they think 'I can report it to the police and the police will take me seriously'. And that is to be welcomed."

Last month, new laws came into force aimed at improving the way sexual offences are dealt with in courts in Scotland.

Judges are now required to give special information to jurors in some trials.

In March, the inspector of constabulary (HMICS) strongly criticised the treatment by the NHS and police of victims of sexual assault and said services offered to some were "unacceptable."

The Scottish government said it was establishing a group to improve the responses to victims of rape or sexual assault.

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