Skip to main content

Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-17410: Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 21 June 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what crimes the "illegal homosexual acts" that are recorded at Table A1 of the report, Criminal Proceeding in Scotland, 2016-17, consist of, and whether it will provide a breakdown of the 111 incidents in 2016-17.

Answered by: Humza Yousaf 12 July 2018

The table referred to in the question (Table A1) comes from the Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2016-17 National Statistics, rather than the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland report.

When police receive reports of historical crime, these are recorded in line with the legislation that pertained at the time of the incident. The heading ‘illegal homosexual acts’ is used to record a range of historical crimes (for example sodomy or indecent assault) which had they been committed from the 1 December 2010, would have instead been recorded as rape or sexual assault. This was the date the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 was enacted, which does not distinguish offences on the basis of the victim or perpetrator’s gender.

Prior to the 1 April 2018, it is possible the heading ‘illegal homosexual acts’ may also have included any historical report of consensual sexual activity between adult males, which would be legal today. However, as demonstrated below, this is likely to have happened to a negligible extent, if at all. From the 1 April 2018 onwards, the guidance used by Police Scotland to record ‘illegal homosexual acts’ now notes that any reports of historic sexual acts between consenting same sex partners, which would if occurring today in the same circumstances no longer be a crime, will not be recorded as crimes regardless of the legislation in place at the material time. This amendment was made by the Scottish Crime Recording Board.

The data the Scottish Government receives from Police Scotland is a general count of the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police, split by local authority. We do not receive further details on the characteristics of these crimes and so are unable to provide a further breakdown of the 111 incidents recorded in 2016-17. However, in September 2017, the Scottish Government published a report presenting information about the characteristics of crimes recorded by the police for the ‘Other sexual crimes’ category. This project was based on a review of almost 1,200 randomly selected police crime records from 2016-17, including 35 out of the 111 ‘illegal homosexual acts’ referred to in the question. All of the 35 cases reviewed happened prior to 1 December 2010, and related to non-consensual sexual activity with a male victim. None of the cases randomly sampled related to consensual sexual activity.