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22 December 2014, 13:15
New research is needed to understand why there are massive variations in the number of rape cases being reported in different regions, Police Scotland has been told.
HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) made the plea after a new report revealed the Fife council area had seen reported rapes rise by 85% in the last year, while some other areas had seen a drop of almost 90% in such cases.
A total of 19 local authority areas saw a rise in the number of rape victims coming forward, according to the report, with the other 13 areas seeing falls of up to 88.9%.
The inspection of Police Scotland's investigative approach to rape revealed "broad regional variations are demonstrated when these statistics are reviewed by local authority area".
HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman said this "highlights there are widely varying figures for reporting across the country with rape reports increasing in 19 of the 32 local authority areas, but dropping markedly in the 13 others".
He added: "I have suggested Police Scotland commission research to better understand the local variations."
The recommendation that research be carried out into the variation in reported rape cases is one of eight made by HMICS.
Between April 1 2013 and March 31 2014, a total of 1,690 rapes were recorded nationally by Police Scotland, an increase of 318 reports or 23.2% increase on the previous year.
Of these reported rapes, 95% were said to have been committed by someone known to the victim, including a third of cases where the offender was the victim's partner or former partner.
One third of all reported rapes were classified as historic/non-recent - with these having been reported more than 12 months after the offence.
The report focused on the Fife division, where there were 198 rapes reported to police, an increase of 91 reports or 85% on the previous year.
According to HMICS: "The majority of rape victims within Fife commented favourably that the police had sufficiently explained the reporting process to them (82.1%); felt supported in considering the options available to them (75%); had no concerns regarding how they were dealt with (89.2%); and did not feel that the police could have treated them differently (96.4%)."
But the report added: "The level of communication provided to victims within Fife after the initial report is inconsistent. In total, 46.4% of respondents were not satisfied with the level of feedback provided to them as the investigation progressed."
To help address this, HMICS recommended that Police Scotland work with others to develop joint approaches which measure victim confidence and satisfaction throughout the various stages of the criminal justice process.
Overall the report found that "the creation of a single policing service has brought a consistent approach to the investigation of rape across Scotland and created a more equal access to specialist support and national capacity".
It also stressed that "the investigation of rape continues to be a policing priority for Police Scotland".
Mr Penman said: "Rape and serious sexual crimes are among the most distressing in society. The public tend to associate rape with a violent assault by a stranger, however in reality the majority of these attacks are carried out in the victim's home by someone known to them.
"It is also the case that, for numerous reasons, many victims do not report the rape at the time and may wait months or years before taking the matter to the police. The current trend is that the level of reports of these non-recent offences is on the increase."
He added: "The majority of rape victims in Fife commented favourably on how they were treated by the police, with the investigative process and their options clearly explained to them. This is echoed by the support groups who report an attitudinal change by police in the investigation of rape with a greater focus on empathy shown to the victim.
"However, I recommend Police Scotland works with its criminal justice partners and rape advocacy groups on ways to measure the victim's confidence and satisfaction as it was reported to us that almost half of rape victims were not happy with the level of feedback they received as the investigation progressed through the criminal justice process."