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More than 6,000 attacks on pensioners in last 12 months in Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 06/11/2015

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig

Violent crime against the elderly has hit an all-time high in Northern Ireland.

Pensioners were the victims of more than 700 incidents involving violence in the last year - an average of 14 a week.

The number of violent crimes has more than doubled since 2008.

In total, almost 5,000 offences were committed against people aged 65 and over in the last 12 months.

Less than one in 10 are ever solved, statistics suggest.

The figures come amid a spate of terrifying raids on the homes of pensioners.

In the most shocking incident, a woman in her 80s had her wedding ring stolen from her hand by callous thieves.

It has led to calls for tougher action against thugs who prey on the elderly.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig called for automatic prison terms.

"This is a heinous crime and I would be very supportive of minimum sentences for thugs who target the elderly," he said.

Police figures detail the scale of crime against the elderly in Northern Ireland.

In the 12 months to April, there were:

  • 714 violent crimes, including 225 incidents where the victim was injured;
  • 1,267 incidents of burglary - a rise of 7.3%;
  • 59 sex offences - double the previous year's figure;
  • And 49 robberies, a slight fall but still nearly one a week.

PSNI figures show people aged 65 and over were the victims of 4,993 crimes in the last year - more than 13 a day.

This is a rise of 14% compared to 2007/08, when 4,377 offences were recorded.

Violent crime has increased significantly, rising from 312 to 714 incidents over that same period - a 129% spike.

Yet in the vast majority of cases no-one is ever brought to justice.

A recent analysis by the Commissioner for Older People indicated that 90% of crimes against older people go unsolved.

PSNI clearance rates for offences against those aged over 60 are 9%, compared to 17% on similar crimes for those under 60.

Age NI chief executive Linda Robinson said more must be done to catch offenders.

"A loud, clear message is needed that those who target older people will be pursued and brought before the law," she said.

Ms Robinson said the rise in crime against older people was very concerning.

"An attack on an older person can have a hugely negative impact on their quality of life," she added.

"We know that an older person who is a victim of crime is more likely to feel vulnerable to further attacks.

"As a result, they may lock themselves at home, away from their community, which is a huge concern for a section of society already disproportionately impacted by isolation and loneliness."

Elderly crime is back under the spotlight after a series of raids in recent weeks.

Last week a gang of masked men stole cash after ransacking the home of an elderly woman in north Belfast.

Two weeks ago a couple in their 70s were left terrified after three thugs ransacked their home.

A man in his 90s and woman in her 70s were also held in their house in Garvagh, Co Londonderry, by two masked intruders.

The issue was discussed by the Policing Board yesterday.

Mr Craig, a DUP MLA for Lagan Valley, said firm action needed to be taken.

"I am of the opinion that people who deliberately target the vulnerable and elderly in our society deserve a prison sentence," he added.

"I am not convinced that this light touch we have of slaps on the wrist is effective.

"I think we need to send a very clear message out to these people, and that means sending them to prison."

Mr Craig said he understood that one gang was behind the recent series of attacks and was deliberately targeting elderly people.

"I have a message for them - they will be deliberately targeted by the police because of their criminal activity.

"These people are absolutely despicable.

"It isn't just the physical impact of what they do. The mental impact on elderly people is terrible.

"It leaves people in fear for the remainder of their days."

Belfast Telegraph

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