Harsher punishments needed for elder abuse
On world Elder Abuse Awareness Day today, it is worth noting that, according to academic research, some 8,755 older people in Northern Ireland are being abused by those closest to them - whether friends, families or carers, and a further unknown number suffer in some care homes and hospital wards, too.
This means 8,755 older people are likely to be feeling frightened and alone, with nobody to turn to, as they are neglected, stolen from, or subjected to physical, or sexual, violence in their own homes. These are our next-door neighbours.
That this should be happening to people at this stage in their lives is a national scandal and, yet, despite how widespread elder abuse is, this is an issue that remains in the shadows, much as child abuse did a few decades ago.
This problem is compounded by the fact that, all our courts hand out very lenient sentences to those who commit these offences. If we are to halt this epidemic of elder abuse, it is about time the punishment started to fit the crime. That is why we are campaigning for sentencing guidelines that will mean our police and judicial system are forced to take crimes against older people more seriously.
Director, Action on Elder Abuse NI