POLICE Scotland has been slated for refusing to publish figures on the number of rapes and sexual assaults in hospitals because it is too expensive.
Via a freedom of information (FOI) request, the Women’s Rights Network uncovered data which shows more than 6500 rapes and sexual assaults have been reported in England and Wales in just under four years. Victims include children under the age of 13 and involve multiple attackers.
But there is no knowing what the situation is like north of the Border because the police will not release statistics – something the WRN has described as “scandalous”.
In its response to the WRN’s FOI request, Police Scotland said the request would exceed the “appropriate costs limit”.
Professor Jo Phoenix, the academic who has compiled WRN’s report, has said the stats in England and Wales would indicate there is likely a “serious problem” in Scotland too.
Heather Binning, WRN spokesperson, said: “It is inconceivable that these shocking crimes are not being committed in Scotland, too.
“Given the horrific numbers we have uncovered in the rest of the UK, it is likely that dozens, possibly hundreds, of women, children and men have been sexually assaulted or raped in hospitals across Scotland.
“It is scandalous that the Police Scotland cannot tell us how many rapes and sexual assaults in hospitals have been reported to them. If important data like this is not being collected, or cannot be readily retrieved, the service’s systems are not fit for purpose.”
A report on the WRN’s findings has been compiled by Phoenix, professor of criminology and deputy head of the law school at Reading University and a member of the WRN’s Academic Unit.
It reveals only 265 people (4.1%) are known to have been charged for the offences in England and Wales.
The statistics – covering the lockdown period – reveal at least 2088 rapes and 4451 sexual assaults in hospitals were reported to police forces in the UK since January 2019.
One in seven of these – or 266 a year – occurred on hospital wards.
Phoenix said: “Accurate crime data is essential for effective policing, but when you don’t track reported crime you can pretend there is not a problem. Data from England and Wales would suggest this is a serious problem in Scotland, too.
“The figures that WRN has uncovered are shocking and prove that NHS Trusts are failing in their duty to protect both patients and staff.”
Although the FOI responses do not record the sex of the victims, national data shows that fewer than 5% of victims are men so the WRN has said it is reasonable to assume that most victims were female.
But the WRN investigation also uncovered 13 reports of rapes of males over the age of 16 and the alleged sexual assault of a boy under 13 in Cambridgeshire hospital.
Binning added: “These statistics are jaw-dropping. We began this investigation because a number of members raised concerns about the safety of women and children on NHS wards, but we are horrified at what we have uncovered.
“The volume of sexual assaults and rapes is even more horrific when you consider that this data covers the pandemic, when much of the country was in lockdown and hospitals were supposedly even more vigilant.
“Hospitals are places where everyone – patients, staff and visitors – should feel completely safe. But rapes and violent assaults are taking place every week in hospitals. To add to the horror, those men committing the crimes are getting away with it.”
Police Scotland has been approached for comment.