Cyber Crime Contributing to Overall Growth in Sex Crime

Cyber Predator

New report by the Scottish Government reveals 20% of all sex-crimes are being committed online

The recently released Cyber-Crime in Scotland: Review of the Evidence report shows that cyber-crime is on the rise and is contributing significantly to the overall number of sex crimes. The report examines the scale and nature of cyber-crime affecting individuals in Scotland.

Since cyber-crime can now be committed remotely, technology has created new opportunities for criminality, meaning people can be victimised by criminals in other jurisdictions; similarly Scottish crooks can commit offences against individuals in other countries. This supposed anonymity has made the perpetrators bolder in their behaviour.

As of April 2016, due to the increasing number of cyber enabled crimes, Police Scotland has introduced a cyber-marker to their crime recording systems and are currently considering how to enhance how crimes with a cyber-element are marked. The research showed that there has been a sizeable and increasing portion of sexual crimes recorded by police that may have a cyber-element.

Online Sex Crimes on the Rise

The most striking aspect of the report was the rise in sex-crimes, cyber technology has had a big impact on both the scale and nature of sexual crime in Scotland. Such incidents in particular targeted younger users, with median ages of 14 and 18 respectively. It also found that victims and offenders were more likely to know of one another. It was suggested in the report that this increase could be due to a greater willingness of victims to report such crimes.

Another finding was that online sexual crimes tend to be concentrated around non-contact offending, but the report showed that cyber abuse may be a precursor in contact sexual crimes e.g. rape, sexual assault. In 2013, the number and proportion of police recorded ‘other sexual crimes’ in Scotland was at 38%, in 2016 this figure has increased to 51%. However, sexual crime is a wide-ranging category that includes both contact such as sexual assault and non-contact e.g. possession of indecent images.

Women More Likely to be Victimised

The three crimes with highest rate of cyber-enabled acts were indecent photos of children, cause to view sexual activity or images and communicating indecently. Communicating indecently and cause to view sexual activity or images accounted for 60% of cyber enabled crimes and accounted for a fifth of all recorded sexual crimes in Scotland. More than 80% of victims were female and around 95% of perpetrators were male. However, the number of male victims did increase significantly from 8% in 2013-2014 to 16% in 2016-2017.

Stalking, harassment, pestering and intimidation crimes were most likely to be carried out online. The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act, which came into force in 2016 now makes it easier to prosecute people who perpetrate ‘revenge porn,’ this is when someone shares sexual or nude images of someone else online without the person’s consent. It is possible this high profile campaign has contributed to encouraging more victims to come forward, which is why we are seeing such an increase in the figures.

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