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8 September 2015, 13:16
Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to a 41-year low despite the number of sex crimes reported to police reaching the highest level since 1971, new figures have revealed.
A total of 256,350 crimes were recorded in 2014/15, down from 270,397 the previous year and the lowest total since 1974.
But the latest figures on recorded crime also show sexual crimes rose by 11% last year, from 8,604 to 9,557, which is the highest total for 44 years.
That includes 1,901 reported rapes and attempted rapes - a 5% rise from 2013/14 and 68% higher than the total from 2010/11.
The continued increase in the number of sexual offences is in part due to a rise in people coming forward to report historic crimes to the police.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "Recorded crime has fallen for the eighth year in a row and is now at its lowest level for 41 years, violent crime is down 6% and crimes of handling an offensive weapon (including knives) have reduced by 67% since 2006-07.
"These strong statistics are backed by over 1,000 extra police officers since 2007, protecting the public and keeping communities safe."
Violent crimes recorded by the police fell by 6% last year to 6,357 - the lowest level since 1974 - while cases of handling an offensive weapon were the lowest recorded since 1985.
Recorded homicide cases, including both murders and culpable homicides, were unchanged over the year at 61, although the total for 2014/15 is half the number from 2006/07.
The Justice Secretary said: "The falling figures around violent crime are especially encouraging and are testament to increased policing and to the huge amount of ground-breaking work being done by the Violence Reduction Unit and the Scottish Government's No Knives, Better Lives programme amongst others to educate our young people about the dangers and consequences of becoming involved in any form of violence.''
Mr Matheson said the rise in reported sex crimes reflected the "general upward trend of the past few years'', and added: ``Police Scotland have made clear that around 45% of the increase is due to a rise in historic reporting and may also be down to more victims of current crimes coming forward.
"Police and prosecutors have improved the way they investigate and prosecute sexual crime with, for example, the single police service using better investigation techniques, setting up a new National Rape Taskforce which treats rape as seriously as murder, and the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU), a specialist unit to support the investigation of complex child abuse and neglect across Scotland.''
Sexual offences now account for 4% all recorded crimes, with the report stating these have been on a ``long-term upward trend since 1974, and have increased each consecutive year since 2008/09''.
But it said Police Scotland had advised there are a ``number of contributory factors that may explain the rise in sexual crimes'', including increased reporting of historic offences, with victims coming forward after successful police operations or prosecutions.
Recorded crimes of dishonesty - such as theft and shoplifting - fell by 8% over the last year to 126,857 in 2014/15, with the figures also showing a 4% fall in fire-raising, vandalism and similar offences to 52,091.
The clear up rate for all recorded crimes decreased slightly over the year from 51.5% to 50.4%, although this is the third highest clear up rate on record since 1976.
Karyn McCluskey, director of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: ``Reducing Violence is a complex challenge. The Violence Reduction Unit has always been clear that long term planning is crucial to making Scotland one of the safest countries in the world. The dedication of communities, teachers, early years, health, police and prison staff in Scotland has shown that we can change the outcomes for so many of our citizens and we should be proud of what they have achieved."