Crackdown Pledge as Sex Crimes Soar

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Byline: CHRIS DEERIN

THE Government yesterday pledged a crackdown on sex crimes in Scotland following the publication of figures showing a dramatic 26 per cent increase in offences.

While overall crime fell by 7 per cent in 1997, the number of rapes and assaults with intent to rape rose by 24 per cent on the previous year and the number of cases of lewd and indecent behaviour jumped by 22 per cent, from 2,500 in 1996 to 3,000 in 1997.

Offences related to prostitution increased by 66 per cent - mainly in Aberdeen and Glasgow, which have notorious red light districts.

Drug related crimes have also shown a steep increase, from 24,000 in 1996 to 29,000 last year.

Scottish Law and Order Minister Henry McLeish said he was alarmed at the figures which, he said, makes Scotland's record of violence towards women worse than that of England and its European neighbours.

In June, the Government is to launch a high profile campaign aimed at halting the rise.

In total, 421,000 crimes were committed in Scotland in 1997 - equal to 1,154 each day and 48 every hour.

Mr McLeish said part of the increase was due to more people reporting 'historical' offences crimes such as child abuse committed years ago.

He added: 'Violence against women is despicable in every sense.

'We must get the message through that violation, exploitation, abuse and harassment of women must be stamped out. It is more dominant in Scotland than in England and other European countries.' Mr McLeish said the Government's campaign - details of which have yet to be made public - would attempt to counter the 'macho' image prevalent in Scottish society and try to change attitudes towards sex crimes.

He said: 'It will send a very powerful message that we will not rest until we see a reduction in these figures.' Since taking office he has introduced several measures aimed at tackling sex crimes, including paedophilia. …