Ageism and Justice

Community Care reports on a proposal by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to recommend more severe sentences to those who commit crimes against older people

The policy is the last to be published on six “equality strands” and brings victimisation due to ageism in line with crimes driven by racism, homophobia, religious hate, disability hate and domestic violence.

coach Royal Courts of Justice

To be honest, before severe sentences are considered, I’d like to see the CPS take more action about taking seriously crimes reported by elderly people so that -any- sentence is considered.

I can personally run through many examples of protective conferences and planning meetings I’ve been party to that have whimpered to unsatisfactory endings because witnesses/victims were deemed to be unreliable witnesses in a court setting or not able to testify in a court – situations where I honestly think video-links would have been extremely helpful.

The policies currently have no teeth and as a victim’s daughter told me just earlier this week ‘why should it be that it’s my mother that has to move away from her home because of my brother’s actions?’.

No answer – but the CPS won’t take any action because of the unreliability of evidence, an injunction requires a similar level of proof and we need to ensure safety as best we can and unfortunately that means a move of someone who would in any other circumstance, be able to stay in her own home.

These are the things that constantly frustrate working in adult protection. The mechanisms just don’t exist to put into place and sturdy protective actions if the witnesses are never deemed to be reliable due to cognitive impairments. While allowances can be made for young witnesses, they rarely are for older ones.

This article explains

The policy also describes how older people who are acting as witnesses can be subject to “special measures” such as being able to give evidence by video link. Older victims will also be offered specialist advocacy services.

Seems well overdue but I’ll try not to be ungracious about it and merely add the sooner the better..

Action on Elder Abuse responded to this by adding

“There is a growing body of evidence indicating the extent and complexity of elder abuse, and the argument is becoming increasingly compelling for there to be equal parity with child protection and domestic violence strategies.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself..

5 thoughts on “Ageism and Justice

  1. When I took Gerontological Social Work, Elder Abuse was a heated topic. Some of us were arguing for a legal requirement to report, while some others were arguing that equating it with child abuse was disrespectful, as it played along the lines that the elderly are like children. Sigh…

    Can’t we just agree that it be vulnerable citizens, whoever they may be? I know, I know, there are things I’m not really thinking about legally, but, hey, that’s why I’m not getting into law! :p

  2. I think the argument that is it disrespectful is a poor one, like you. I don’t think you are showing a lot less respect by not providing effective safeguards for people who are, for whatever reason, vulnerable! And stating that someone has a similar level of vulnerability is not, I don’t think, infantilising.. for me, that disrespect is more about attitudes, terms of speech and offering an equality of opportunities rather than using it as an excuse for not supporting an equality of protection!

  3. I think elder abuse is very under acknowledged. I think it should be given the same treatment as child abuse, the arguement that is disrespectful seems a little disrespectful in itself.
    Good post cb.

  4. I’ve made some adult protective service referrals in my line of work. Did so not long ago. I always feel as if it’s an exercise in futility, though, because there aren’t near the workers as in CPS and they have to cover more than just one county. But perhaps they don’t have the workers because they don’t have the referrals?

  5. I used to take a lot more referrals for adult abuse in my previous job than I do now, but that’s because of the nature of the job that I was doing previously when I wasn’t in a specialist mental health team – here at least, the workers exist, they just can’t do very much with the information that they get and it isn’t for want of trying. I have certainly been involved in situations where the police were equally frustrated and angry (possibly because they were more surprised at the ineffectual laws that exist to protect vulnerable adults than we were.. ).
    What I can see though, is more attention being paid to the deficit of legislation to deal with these things.
    Thanks for the comment, silva and I am inclined to veer towards cynicism I’m afraid, Reas, because it’s my general default position! It is incredibly frustrating though!

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