Care for elderly victims of crime ‘not good enough’ in half of cases inspected
Care for elderly victims of crime by police and prosecutors was not good enough in more than half the cases examined by two watchdogs.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) looked for the first time at the treatment of victims over 60.
A report published on Tuesday found that of 192 cases looked at in detail, victim care was found to be not good enough in 101.
The Victims’ Code, a document that sets out the information and services to which victims have a right, was only complied with in 97 of the cases.
Inspectors also found 153 cases where a safeguarding referral should have been made by police to the local council, but this did not happen in around half (77) of the incidents.
The report said: “Crime against older people isn’t well understood, despite the vulnerability of older people and the importance that society attaches to looking after people in their old age.
“There has been little police analysis of the problem, including the links to disability hate crime and domestic abuse.
“We found that police forces had only a superficial understanding of the problems, although all had recognised that fraud was an increasingly common concern for older victims.
“We were concerned to find that the number of crimes against older people referred by the police to the CPS has declined for two consecutive years, but there has been no co-ordinated action to find out why and what should be done.”
Referral to victim support services was “too inconsistent”, the watchdogs found, and older people were often not offered the support of an intermediary or given access to measures such as video-recording their evidence or using hearing loops when in court.
One anonymised case study was a 70-year-old with learning difficulties who gave their bank details to the friend of a neighbour and asked for help managing her finances.
The victim told police that large amounts of money had been stolen, and the person had taken advantage of her because she was vulnerable and lonely.
The police only visited the victim 11 days later, and gave her no help in going through her bank statements to see what had been stolen.
Two months later the suspect was invited for interview, but the case was later dropped due to lack of evidence.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams (pictured), said: “As people are living increasingly longer, it is imperative that the needs of older people are properly understood by those charged with protecting them.
“While the care and concern of police officers for all victims of crime cannot be doubted, older victims often present unique challenges which need to be considered.
“Unfortunately, our inspection found that older people are often not treated according to their needs by the criminal justice system.”
The inspectors found that when victims had called the police, there was “mostly an appropriate response”, with older people being seen quickly and in most cases – 171 out of 192 – in person by an officer.
They made a series of recommendations including improving training for adult safeguarding “as a matter of urgency”.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council should set up a standard victim needs assessment for all police forces, and with training body the College of Policing develop a strategy for how the police respond to older people.
Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick from the College of Policing said: “The College of Policing’s updated vulnerability training, which focuses on age as a factor which can impact a person’s vulnerability and helps police identify and respond to specific risks and issues, is available to all forces across England and Wales and has already been delivered to more than 9,500 officers.
“It is concerning the inspectors found the service to some elderly people fell below expected standards and we will be working with agencies, including the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Crown Prosecution Service, to examine the report and its recommendations in detail and continue to support policing to improve the protection of vulnerable people, whatever their age.”
The inspectors examined 32 cases from each of six police forces, 16 charged and 16 not charged. The forces were: Greater Manchester, North Wales, Dorset, Humberside, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire.
A CPS spokesman said: “We take crimes against older people very seriously – and this report highlights that we correctly charged every single case that was inspected.
“This week we published updated policy and legal guidance for our prosecutors which address many issues in the report. We have accepted all the inspectorates’ recommendations.
“Over the next six months we will improve how we identify cases where older people have been deliberately targeted and consider if they need assistance such as intermediaries or interpreters in court.
“We will also make better use of restraining orders and other ancillary measures that further protect victims beyond any sentence given to offenders.”
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