Tougher punishment promised for crimes against older people

Crimes committed against older people could result in harsher sentences following the launch of a new policy this week by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Courts will now be informed by the prosecuting advocate of any evidence that an offence against an older person was aggravated by the victim’s age. However, it is not guaranteed that perpetrators will be more severely punished as courts are not duty-bound to increase sentences in such cases.

The policy is the last to be published on six “equality strands” and brings victimisation due to ageism in line with crimes driven by racism, homophobia, religious hate, disability hate and domestic violence. 

Director of public prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald QC said the CPS was taking crime against older people seriously. He added: “Negative attitudes towards older people exist in our society. Crimes against older people take place against this backdrop of less than positive, and indeed, prejudicial attitudes. We are determined to play our part in challenging this.”

The policy also describes how older people who are acting as witnesses can be subject to “special measures” such as being able to give evidence by video link. Older victims will also be offered specialist advocacy services. 

Charity Action on Elder Abuse, welcomed the initiative. Chief executive Gary FitzGerald said: “This is a positive step towards safeguarding older people and other adults in vulnerable situations by mainstreaming them into the criminal justice arena.

“There is a growing body of evidence indicating the extent and complexity of elder abuse, and the argument is becoming increasingly compelling for there to be equal parity with child protection and domestic violence strategies.”

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