‘Alarm bells’ as sexual and violent crimes surge in Scotland

Police Scotland warned last week the force could be forced to shed 2,000 jobs and close 30 stations
Police Scotland warned last week the force could be forced to shed 2,000 jobs and close 30 stations - PA

Sexual and violent crimes have surged in Scotland, according to official figures that should set “alarm bells ringing” after police warned of deep cuts to officer numbers and services.

Violent crime rose by 4 per cent in the 12 months to June compared to the same period in 2019.

The number of sex crimes surged by 8 per cent over the same period to 14,834, including a 4 per cent rise in rapes and attempted rapes.

Among the other large increases compared to before the pandemic were a 50 per cent rise in cases involving indecent photos of children and an 82 per cent rise in fraud.

Although overall crime levels increased by 2 per cent compared to 2022, SNP ministers argued that they remained at historically low levels over the past 50 years.

But the Tories said the increase in rapes was “deeply alarming” and warned that some sex attackers were avoiding prison thanks to sentencing guidelines stating that those aged under 25 should only be jailed as a last resort.

The figures were also published after Police Scotland warned last week the force could be forced to shed 2,000 jobs and close 30 stations thanks to SNP funding cuts.

David Page, Police Scotland’s deputy chief officer, told MSPs the force will have to cut 600 officers and 200 staff by April next year if it is given a flat-cash budget settlement, with compulsory redundancies on the cards.

A paper submitted by the force to Holyrood’s criminal justice committee warned the job losses would surge to 2,070 over the next four years, when the cost of pay rises is taken into account.

The force warned that they were “going to have to take a lot of pain” and that the changes required are “going to impact on our ability to respond”.

‘Dangerous offenders are cheating justice’

They refused to rule out expanding the controversial pilot currently taking place in the north east of Scotland, whereby some crimes are not investigated, thanks to a lack of resources.

Russell Findlay, the Scottish Tories’ shadow justice secretary, said: “The SNP’s continued weak approach to justice means many crimes are on the increase and many dangerous offenders are cheating justice.

“The under-25 sentencing guidelines as well as use of diversion from prosecution means that some rapists are not being held to account.”

Pauline McNeill, the Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman, said: “Alarm bells should be ringing over these concerning figures, but to anyone who has been following the SNP’s chaotic approach to policing they come as no surprise.

“For years the SNP has allowed our police force to become under-resourced, understaffed and overworked – and it is our communities who pay the price.”

There were 292,702 recorded crimes in the year up to June 2023, compared to 285,974 the previous year. However, the total was 4 per cent lower than in 2019.

“Crimes against society” surged by the largest amount over the past year, with shoplifting rising by 21 per cent, while non-sexual acts of violence increased by 19 per cent.

‘Safety and security of public is top priority’

Angela Constance, the SNP justice secretary, said the figures were at “one of the lowest levels” since 1974, despite the increase in the previous 12 months.

She said: “The safety and security of the public is my top priority, and these statistics show Scotland continues to be a safe place to live.

“These continued low levels of crime are due to the efforts across policing, justice and community safety partners to deliver safer communities and our investment in the justice system.”