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NI report on older people and crime

Some older people in Northern Ireland have reluctance to leave the house to attend community groups or other events because of a fear of leaving property unattended in case of burglary, according to a report for the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch.

He said: “Although older people are less likely to be victims of crime, crimes such as burglary, criminal damage, vehicle theft and violence without injury, continue to have a lower outcome rate for older people than other age groups.

“The purpose of this study was not only to better understand why this is the case, but also to understand older people’s experience of crime in order to determine where improvements could be made, enabling me to make informed recommendations to the relevant agencies.”

The research found a number of reasons for lower crime outcome rates for older people: a reluctance to give evidence in court and a fear of reporting because the offender is known to them or knows where they live; a tendency to delay reporting certain types of crime due to a delayed realisation that they had been a victim or even because they felt too embarrassed to report it.

The study also pointed to ‘systemic problems within the criminal justice system’, as older people revealed their concerns about the long time a case can take to get to court with delays causing particular consequences for older people, who are more likely to have issues with memory recall and failing physical health. The report makes 24 recommendations to agencies including the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Public Prosecution Service, Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service. Among suggestions; a ‘presumption in favour of special measures for crimes against older people’.

Focus groups and interviews did find praise for ‘good work done by the PSNI and community police officers in providing information about personal safety and home security measures’.

Lynch added: “Being a victim of crime can be a traumatic experience for anyone, but there are particular factors that make older people more vulnerable to the effects of crime. Older people have an increased fear of crime, a higher rate of physical and mental impairment and disability, are more likely to live alone and often lack the strong support networks of younger age groups.”

“It’s crucial that older people have confidence in the response of the statutory agencies, including the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service and the courts. My recommendations aim to improve the experience of older people who have unfortunately been the victims of crime, so they feel fully supported and safe throughout the criminal justice process.”

The report, launched at Queen’s University Belfast, was written by academics, Dr Kevin J Brown, Lecturer in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at Queen’s University and former Queen’s academic, Dr Faith Gordon, now at Monash University, Melbourne. For the 56-page report, visit: https://www.copni.org/news/2019/may/commissioner-for-older-people-calls-for-reform-in-the-treatment-of-older-victims-of-crime.


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