RECORDED crime in Scotland fell by almost a fifth in the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown, with particularly sharp falls in sexual crimes, dishonesty and vandalism.

There was also a sharp drop in lower level offences, with an 82 per cent fall in speeding. 

However fraud and drink-driving were up.

The figures did not include an estimated 2,700 lockdown crimes under the new laws designed to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Those aside, Police Scotland recorded 18 per cent fewer crimes in April this year compared to the same month in 2019, with offences down from 20,994 to 17,171.

Recorded sexual crimes were down by 26% compared to April 2019 (from 1,055 to 781), with a 46% fall lin sexual assaults and a 27% fall in rapes and attempted rapes.

Crimes of dishonesty were down 24% from 9,459 to 7,177, including a 50% fall in shoplifting from 2,826 to 1,417 and an 8% fall in housebreaking from 1,045 to 965.

There was a marked increase in fraud, with recorded crimes up 38% from 791 to 1,089.

However this coincided with a change to way crimes were recorded - for the first time it included crimes committed by fraudsters based outside the UK, such as online scammers.

Officials cautioned against attributing all of this change to Covid and the lockdown, which began on March 23.

Non-sexual crimes of violence were down 14% from 740 to 636, including a 37% fall lin attempted murder annd serious assault from 361 to 226.

There was a 13% decrease in crimes recorded under the Domestic Abuse Act 2018.

Fire-raising was down 13% from 243 to 211 and vandalism down 26% from 3,990 to 2,937.

Overall crime fell in 30 of Scotland’s 32 council areas, with no change in Clackmannanshire and a 45% rise in the Western Isles, although this involved a rise from just 42 crimes to 61.

The biggest falls in crimes were in Edinburgh (down by 23% or 603 crimes), North Lanarkshire (down 21% or 348 crimes), and Glasgow (down 19% or 702 crimes).

Together these three council areas accounted for 43% of the overall fall in crime.

Lower level offences also saw a precipitous fall in April, down 29% from 21,644 to 15,549.

With people advised not to travel, there was a 42% fall in motoring offences from 10,597 to 6,143, including an 82% fall in speeding from 2,855 to 501, a 70% fall in not wearing a seatbelt, a 56% fall in defective vehicles and a 63% fall in drivers using a mobile phone.

But against a backdrop of people reportedly drinking more alcohol during the lockdown, driving under the influence offences were up 19%, from 507 to 604.

Dangerous and careless driving offences were down 27% from 954 to 698.

Miscellaneous public disorder offences were also down 16% from 11,047 to 9,306.

These including a 24% fall in common assault from 4,8434 to 3,678, an 11% fall in breach of the peace from 4,356 to 3,890 and a 78% fall in urinating in public, from 214 to 47.

However there was little overall change in “drunkenness and other disorderly conduct,” where offences fell by just 2% from 838 to 529.

SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While many types of crime have fallen in recent months, we know that some people have been using lockdown as a chance to commit offences, notably fraud – including targeting some of our most vulnerable citizens and exploiting businesses.

“We must remain vigilant to such criminals, and also to the risks of harm against those who may be living in fear of abuse and violence within their own homes. I would urge anyone who has experienced or witnessed crime to continue to report it. 

“Some women and children may feel very isolated now, and need our help more than ever.

"My message to anyone experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence is absolutely clear: while you may feel vulnerable and unseen, you are not alone. Help from police and support services is still available round the clock.

“We know that criminals may also be using lockdown as a chance to exploit the vulnerable, especially those most at risk at home and in the care sector. This behaviour is absolutely abhorrent and we, along with the police, are determined to pursue those who set out to cause harm and misery to our communities.”

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "The recorded crime figures show some changes to the demands on policing but it will undoubtedly take months, or even years, before we understand the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic on crime levels in Scotland.

"Our officers will continue to pursue fraudsters who set out to cause harm and misery to our communities.

"I know that private and virtual spaces are not safe places for some people and that the current restrictions may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect.

"Police Scotland will always pursue reports of domestic abuse or sexual crime whenever they occur and will continue to support those who feel vulnerable in our communities, particularly during this challenging time. Police Scotland is here to help 24 hours a day and if you need our support or intervention, please contact us."

Responding to the increase in recorded fraud, Marjorie Gibson of, said: “These figures suggest that unscrupulous fraudsters are trying to exploit a public health crisis by preying on people and businesses.

“Evidence of this disgusting behaviour has been picked up across Scotland.

“We urge everyone to be vigilant as fraudsters can sound very plausible and persuasive, and it can be easy to be taken in by them.

“It’s always important to check emails very carefully and not to immediately contract with someone who cold calls.

“Our advisers are on hand to offer tips on what to look out for to avoid being scammed, and we can report any instances to Trading Standards for further investigation.”