Police letting down older victims of crime, say inspectors

Report says police have only superficial understanding of crimes against older people

Older victims of crime are being let down by the police and the wider criminal justice system, according to the first inspection report on the age group.

The police have only a “superficial understanding” of the crimes committed against older people, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate says.

Older people account for 18% of the population but more than eight out of 10 victims of doorstop scams are elderly, the report says. Older people also comprise a quarter of domestic homicide victims.

“Despite these statistics and the fact that we have an increasingly ageing population, the two inspectorates found that the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lacked any joint cohesive and focused strategy to deal with older victims of crime,” says the report.

Inspectors found that out of 153 cases where a safeguarding referral should have been made by police to the local authority, on 77 occasions there was no any evidence of this taking place.

Of the 192 cases the inspectorates looked at in detail, victim care was found not to be good enough in 101 of them and the victims’ code was complied with on only 97 occasions.

“As people are living increasingly longer, it is imperative that the needs of older people are properly understood by those charged with protecting them,” said the inspector of constabulary, Wendy Williams. “Unfortunately, our inspection found that older people are often not treated according to their needs by the criminal justice system. We want to see a sharper focus on older people and the problems they face.”

John Beer, the chair of Action on Elder Abuse, said: “This is a truly damning report about the way the criminal justice system treats older victims. Action on Elder Abuse has led the call for a specific offence or aggravating factor of elder abuse, in recognition of the devastating impact crime has on older victims. As a society we already recognise that where a victim is targeted because of their race, religion, sexual identity or disability, a tougher sentence should apply.”

In October last year the home secretary, Sajid Javid, asked the Law Commission to review hate crime legislation with a view to including age as a protected characteristic. This has not been taken forward.

Beer said: “In the meantime older people are suffering at the hands of criminals every day and being let down by the justice system to boot. This has to stop now.”

The inspectorates made a series of recommendations aimed at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the CPS and the College of Policing (COP).

Ian Pilling, the NPCC lead for adults at risk, welcomed the recommendations. “We are considering enhancing training and guidance provided to officers, as well as increasing the profile of crimes against older people,” he said.

“However, our resource constraints mean that we cannot deal with every victim in the way they would like and indeed in the way we in policing would like to be able to.”

Janette McCormick, the director for policing standards at the COP, said: “We will be working with agencies to examine the report and its recommendations in detail and continue to support policing to improve the protection of vulnerable people, whatever their age.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “This week we published updated policy and legal guidance for our prosecutors which address many issues in the report. We have accepted all the inspectorates’ recommendations.”

Contributor

Amelia Hill

The GuardianTramp

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