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27 February 2018, 13:17
The conviction rate for rape and attempted rape in Scotland has fallen to its lowest since 2008/09, according to new figures.
Official statistics show the proportion of those who were taken to court and found guilty for such crimes fell to 39% in 2016/17, down from 49% in the previous year.
The conviction rate is the lowest since the 37% recorded in 2008/09.
In 2016/17 the number of convictions for rape and attempted rape decreased by 7%, from 105 to 98.
That is despite a 16% rise in court proceedings for these crimes over the same period.
Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson MSP said the figures were "cause for serious concern", adding: "We are seeing more rape and attempted rape cases, but convictions are falling, with only four in ten cases leading to conviction.
"These crimes are already under reported. We have seen positive steps from the government to rectify that - such as the 'I just froze' public information campaign, but serious questions need to be asked as to why conviction rates are falling.
"People need to have faith that coming forward means they will get support they need and see a robust process."
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "While the relatively low conviction rate for rape reflects, in part, the challenging evidential requirements to prove this crime, the Government will continue to seek to strengthen the law where possible, and how such cases are dealt with.
"Since last April judges are required to direct juries in certain sexual offence cases on how to consider evidence - specifically explaining why a victim may not physically resist their attacker, nor report an offence immediately.
"Our on-going jury research is also examining how juries reach decisions and use the 'not proven' verdict.
"As well as ensuring the justice system has the resources needed to pursue perpetrators and to better support victims, our preventative work includes education on the pervasive nature of gender-based violence - an issue on which people across society, in families, schools and the wider community, must continue to speak out against."
The figures show the number of people convicted for sexual crimes fell by 11% to 1,037, the lowest in five years, although levels remain 37% higher than in 2010-11.
Overall there was an 8% fall in the total number of people taken to court (down to 107,338) and the same percentage drop for those convicted (to 92,334).
This was driven by a fall in conviction for speeding offences, common assault and crimes against public justice such as perjury, resisting arrest or wasting police time.
Convictions for non-sexual crimes of violence fell by 3%to 1,722 people while those with a domestic abuse element dropped by 12% to 10,830.
Custodial sentences were down 8% to the lowest level since 2007/08 with the average prison sentence length up by 26% over the decade.