- Sarah Whitebloom
Older people need to be part of society. New 'hate' laws risk further alienating elderly -
Older people are not the victims of crime, be it theft or abuse, because they are ‘hated’ for being old - as people of different races and religions are targeted by those who hate them for the colour of their skin or their beliefs. Criminals steal from older and vulnerable people because it is easy. They are abused and neglected by bullies, profiteering businesses and criminals for much the same reason.
One of the major reasons why it is easy to prey on older and vulnerable people is because they are literally isolated and marginalised by society and left to defend themselves. We weep over stories of care home abuse and granny battering, but the political direction is all about demonising older people, setting up inter-generational strife and pushing older people to the fringes of society. Sad to say, making crime against older people a ‘hate crime’ may only serve to exacerbate and underline their increasingly marginalised situation.
Older people are people. They are us. We need to think big - about why they are the target for criminals and how we can stop this. And that means letting older people back in. Making offences against older people different 'hate' crimes will not actually stop them. It just emphasises that older people are now seen as 'different'. Experience shows, it will not help.
OLM has no wish to disagree with the wonderful Dame Esther Rantzen about anything. She does marvellous work. But specific crimes of carer and care provider abuse were introduced in 2015. Six months ago, two and a half years after the law came into force, OLM asked every police force in the country how many investigations they had carried out and how many people had been charged.
Thirty four forces responded. These responses showed that very few investigations had been launched (1,257 in 30 months) and just 73 people had been charged. See the full story here.
There is clearly some education of the forces of law and order to be done. These numbers contrast with 82,000 people charged, in one year, with domestic abuse and 11,130 prosecutions for child abuse. Both were formerly not given much attention or police time.
Meanwhile, in terms of the new law on care abuse, 40 per cent of investigations were carried out by just two police forces – Staffordshire and Suffolk. Eight forces said they had never charged anyone under the new Act - which was supposed to put a stop to elder abuse.
The biggest problem was one of evidence. According to the police, who did investigate, they simply could not get the amount of evidence necessary to mount a prosecution. The burden of proof was set to high, they said, and the crimes are carried out behind closed doors - because older and vulnerable people are shut away.
But talk to seasoned police and they will say that an assault is an assault – whether it is in a care home or on the street. By making it a separate offence, they say, it has somehow diminished the crime. Abusers should be charged, they say, with the full force of the law – built up over centuries to protect individuals – not pursued under new cobbled together provisions.
The laws are there to protect older and vulnerable people – without marginalising them further. What is needed is the political and police will to put proper resources into pursuing them. But, given the Government’s anti-elderly agenda, can it be long before young thugs are rewarded for helping themselves to the hard-won possessions of the old?