Elder abuse – Police fail to act

A new report on elder abuse has been issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) highlights the failure of Police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to deal with crime against older people.

As most local authority Deputyship teams are aware, getting the police to act on a crime is extremely hard even if the evidence is supplied proving guilt.

As the average age of the population increases, almost inevitably, the amount of crime committed towards older people will increase as well. The report found that the police have only a “superficial understanding” of the nature and extent of crimes against older people and that the Police and CPS lacked any joint cohesive and focused strategy to deal with older victims of crime. The report looked at 192 cases in total, from forces across the country. Of those cases reviewed it was discovered that in 101 cases the care was not appropriate. Of the cases inspected 153 should have been referred to the local authority under safeguarding procedures, in fact only 76 were referred.

The investigation was carried out in the following forces – Greater Manchester, North Wales, Dorset, Humberside, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire.

Responding to the report 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.”

The following recommendations have been made –

  • The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the CPS should, within six months, agree a definition of what constitutes an older victim and take a coordinated approach to understand and respond to the problem.
  • The NPCC should, within six months, establish a standard way for police forces to conduct a victim needs assessment.
  • The NPCC and College of Policing (COP) should, within six months, develop a strategy for how the police service should respond to the problems faced by older people, and agree who should be responsible for it.
  • The NPCC and COP should, as a matter of urgency, develop guidelines and training for officers involved in adult safeguarding procedures.

The report can be read in full on the HMICFRS website via the link below.

HMICFRS report on Crime against Older People