West Fife tops Scottish rape figures

More rapes were reported in West Fife than any other area in Scotland, according to data obtained by BBC Scotland.

Police Scotland data reveals the command area – which includes Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath – received 102 reports over a 14-month period.

The local authority of Fife received the same number of reports (222) as Glasgow despite having a population two-thirds the size.

Nearly 2,000 rapes were reported to Police Scotland between April 2013 and May 2014.

You can explore the data for your own Police Scotland command area using the SEARCHABLE DATABASE I developed for BBC Scotland.

These new figures come in the wake of a police report last month which acknowledged reports of rape were on the rise across its national divisions.

In the first full year of Scotland’s single police force the number of alleged rapes being reported to the authorities increased by more than a fifth to almost 1,700 while the level of sexual crimes recorded rose by 11.8%.

But the data released to BBC Scotland under Freedom of Information legislation further breaks down these divisional reports by police command area and month.

Police in the command areas of West Lothian (92), Dundee (87), Glasgow South-East (74), Perth and Kinross (69), and Central Fife (69) also received a high number of reports.

The single largest number of incidents (23) was reported in West Fife in August 2013.

The data released to BBC Scotland also reveals peaks in incidents of rape reported nationally in November 2013 (154) and January 2014 (158). The monthly average over the 14-month period was 142.

But Det Supt Louise Raphael, the head of Police Scotland’s new National Rape Task Force, warns these figures should be treated with caution.

“This data shows when crimes were reported to us, and not necessarily when they were committed.”

According to Ms Rapheal the data could include multiple crimes reported by a single person – crimes which may have occurred over a long period of time.

“We also know that about 36% of rapes reported to us were historic in nature – crimes that were a year or more old.

That figure increases to nearly 50% for crimes reported up to three months after they actually occurred.”

Ms Rapheal said that, coupled with the fact that only 19% of rapes against adults are reported, the task force has found it challenging to pinpoint geographical or seasonal trends in attacks.

“We want to see more reporting to the police because if we don’t have that then we can’t properly understand the nature of the crime and the causal factors.

“So we anticipate seeing an increase in the number and not necessarily a decrease.”

One factor in a potential increase in reported rape would be the risk assessment questionnaires police officers have victims fill out following a domestic abuse complaint.

“That has encouraged many victims – particularly of domestic rapes who don’t understand that these incidents amount to rape – to come forward to police,” said Ms Raphael.

Sandy Brindley, national coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “Court is a big deterrent to many people who are scared, feel they can’t go through with it, and who may not have confidence in the system.”

But she lauded Police Scotland for adapting a number of significant measures to boost public confidence.

In addition to a recent awareness campaign, Police Scotland also unveiled a new scheme last week that would see men suspected of sex crimes issued with police warnings.

It is hoped the Persons of Interest scheme would frighten sexual predators into changing their behaviour if they thought the authorities were on their trail.