Recorded crime in Scotland: 'Other sexual crimes', 2013-2014 and 2016-2017

Report on ‘Other sexual crimes’ recorded by the police in the periods 2013 to 2014 and 2016 to 2017.

Executive Summary


This report presents information on ‘Other sexual crimes’ recorded by the police in 2013-14 and 2016-17. It provides information drawn from a sample of these crimes which have come to the attention of the police. It does not provide information on all such crimes committed in society as not all of these crimes are reported to the police.

The number of ‘Other sexual crimes’ recorded by the police has increased by 50% between 2013-14 and 2016-17 and is now the largest category within recorded sexual crimes. ‘Other sexual crimes’ accounted for 40% of sexual crimes in 2016-17, ahead of ‘Sexual assault’ (almost 40%), ‘Rape & attempted rape’ (17%) and ‘Crimes associated with prostitution’ (3%).

The growth in ‘Other sexual crimes’ has been driven by increases in crimes of ‘Communicating indecently’ (2013-14: 605, 2016-17: 1,166) and ‘Cause to view sexual activity or images’ (2013-14: 229, 2016-17: 1,030). These crimes now account for more than half of ‘Other sexual crimes’ and 20% of all sexual crimes.

Characteristics of ‘Other sexual crimes’

Over three-quarters of victims (where identifiable) of ‘Other sexual crimes’ were female; 79% in 2016-17. The median age was 15 and the majority (59%) were under 16.

The vast majority of perpetrators (where identifiable) were male; 95% in 2016-17. The age of perpetrators was more evenly distributed with a median age of 29.

The most commonly identified type of relationship between victims and perpetrators was strangers (42% in 2016-17). Despite this, in a majority of cases the victim and perpetrator were known to each other, either as acquaintances (37%), partners or ex-partners (10%), or relatives (5%).

‘Other sexual crimes’ were most commonly reported by the victim - 39% in 2016-17. This was followed by the police (discovering through investigation, intelligence, or witnessing) - 25% in 2016-17, and 20% were reported by a relative or guardian.

In 2016-17, 12% of ‘Other sexual crimes’ were non-recent (i.e. they took place more than 12 months before they were recorded). ‘Other sexual crimes’ are far less likely to be non-recent than recorded sexual crimes as a whole (30% in 2016-17).

Cyber enabled crime - Impact on growth in ‘Other sexual crimes’

There was a significant increase in the proportion of ‘Other sexual crimes’ that were cyber enabled (i.e. the internet was used as a means to commit the crime) - increasing from 38% in 2013-14 to 51% in 2016-17.

There are two main factors which have contributed to this increase:

(i) those types of crime which can be cyber enabled (such as ‘Communicating indecently’ or ‘Cause to view sexual activity or images’) have grown markedly whilst crimes that can’t be cyber enabled have fallen, and

(ii) as these crimes have been growing, the proportion which actually were cyber enabled has increased significantly from 34% to 53%.

The research estimates that around half of the growth in all sexual crimes recorded by the police between 2013-14 and 2016-17 is due to growth in cyber enabled ‘Other sexual crimes’.

Cyber enabled crime - Impact on crime characteristics

The crimes of ‘Communicating indecently’ and ‘Cause to view sexual activity or images’ now account for half of ‘Other sexual crimes’. These crimes can be cyber enabled and generally have identifiable victims and perpetrators.

The characteristics of these crimes can vary significantly depending on whether or not they were cyber enabled. Victims were younger for cyber enabled crime, with a median age of 14 and three-quarters aged under 16 in 2016-17. In contrast, victims of non-cyber enabled crime had a median age of 23.

Perpetrators were also younger for cyber enabled crimes of this type, with a median age of 18 in 2016-17, and more than half under 20. In contrast, perpetrators of non-cyber enabled crime had a median age of 36.

These crimes tend to involve a perpetrator targeting someone who was younger than them. The median gap in victim and perpetrator ages was much smaller where these crimes were cyber enabled. Almost a quarter of cyber enabled crime had a victim and perpetrator who were both under 16 in 2016-17 (compared to 8% for non-cyber enabled crimes).

Victims and perpetrators were more likely to be acquaintances when these crimes were cyber enabled (47% in 2016-17) than where they were not cyber enabled (26%). Crimes that were not cyber enabled were slightly more likely to be committed by strangers than cyber enabled crimes (52% compared to 44%).

Cyber enabled crimes were most likely to be reported by a relative or guardian (38% in 2016-17), followed by the victim themselves (34%). Whereas, two-thirds of victims reported the incident themselves when it wasn’t cyber enabled, only 11% were reported by a relative or guardian.


Of those ‘Other sexual crimes’ with an identifiable victim (or witness) and perpetrator, just over half (55%, 2016-17) took place while the victim (or witness) and perpetrator were in the same location. The most common type of location for these crimes was a private dwelling (including garden) (41%, 2016-17), followed by open areas (streets, parks, etc.) (34%, 2016-17).


Email: Jamie Macfarlane,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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