By David Leask

MURDERS are up but rapes are down, according to the latest snapshot of Scottish crime.

New figures show broadly steady numbers for both sexual and non-sexual violence for April to September of this year, compared to the same period of last year.

However, this relatively stable picture suggests an end to two of the most important crime trends of the last decade: rising sexual offending and falling violence.

Police Scotland yesterday posted its performance report for the first half of the 2019-2020 financial year. The force is not rushing to judgement on a change in trends - and sources stress it would be irresponsible to do so.

However, police said Group One crimes - the most serious violent offences - were up 18%, because a new offence of domestic abuse had been added to the category. However, without this new offence violence would be down 2.7%.

The headline figures hid a rise of nine in the number of murders recorded in the six months compared with the same period a year before.

Will Linden, deputy director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Violence continues to be a concern in Scotland with little changes in the number of serious non fatal assaults (attempted murder and serious assault) and robbery with a year on year reduction of 3%.

“However, overall figures can mask the problems and challenges that sit below. In the last six months we have seen that 37 people have lost their lives through murder in Scotland, an increase of nine over the same period last year.

“This is a stark reminder that we should never be complacent, and how far we still have to travel in our journey to prevent further tragedy.

“While it is too early to identify the specific patterns and drivers that have caused this increase, we do know that it is inconsistent and is not a countrywide increase with some areas, including Greater Glasgow, decreasing.

“Figures will always be a concern but behind every statistic, good or bad, there is a person, a family and community suffering and we can never accept one murder, let alone 37.” Attempted murders were down. The difference between an attempt and a murder is often no more than chance - such as quick access to medical help.

Murders are almost always reported but police experts believe much violent crime, including minor assaults, which are not categorised as group 1, is not.

The same has always been thought to be true of sex or Group 2 offending. There has not been annual decline in such crime since 2008-2009. Figures for sex crimes are down for both the first and second quarters of 2019-20. But police are not celebrating.

Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, of the National Rape Taskforce, said: “Rape and sexual offences remain under-reported. We’ll continue to work with partners to build confidence and to encourage reporting including using new methods and technologies to maximise the opportunities for evidence gathering and help minimise the ongoing trauma for victims. Time is no barrier, we will listen and and we will give you a voice. “