Crime against older people isn’t well understood, and the police and CPS should be better prepared to deal with an ageing population
Older people who have been the victims of crime are often let down by the police and wider criminal justice system which does not always understand their needs and experiences, according to a new report.
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Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) found that the police have only a “superficial understanding” of the nature and extent of crimes against older people, which often results in a poorer service to older victims.
Older people account for 18 percent of the population, but over eight out of ten victims of doorstop scams are elderly, and they also comprise a quarter of domestic homicide victims.
Despite this, and the fact that we have an increasingly ageing population, the two inspectorates found that the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lacked any joint cohesive and focused strategy to deal with older victims of crime.
The report – The poor relation: The police and Crown Prosecution Service’s response to crimes against older people – praised the work of police officers in their initial dealings with older victims of crime, including attending promptly to reports of crime from older victims. But afterwards, officers struggled to deal with some of the complex needs of older people.
- Older people were not always properly safeguarded. For example, in 153 cases where a safeguarding referral should have been made by police to the local authority, on 77 occasions we could not find any evidence of this taking place.
- Referral to victim support services for older people was too inconsistent.
- Older people were not always offered the support of intermediaries, or helped to give their best evidence, for example by video-recording their evidence or using hearing loops.
In this inspection, the first by HMICFRS and HMCPSI to look specifically at older victims of crime, adult safeguarding was described as the ‘poor relation’ of safeguarding arrangements. While the police are correct to take child safeguarding incredibly seriously, there are concerns that safeguarding for vulnerable adults is not prioritised in the same way. It is important that those aged 18 and over receive the protection and support that they require.
Of the 192 cases the inspectorates looked at in detail, victim care was found to be not good enough in 101, and the Victims’ Code had been complied with on only 97 occasions.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams, 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. A good start would be to make sure assessments are consistently made of victims’ needs.
“We want to see a sharper focus on older people, and the problems they face. For example, we believe that the police and the CPS can work together better to understand the problem and develop strategies for how to respond.
“We are also concerned about the lack of consistent adult safeguarding arrangements. We want this inspection to kickstart the change and we hope that our recommendations will make all vulnerable people safer.”
As a result of the inspection, HMICFRS and HMCPSI made a series of recommendations aimed at improving responses to older victims of crime and vulnerable adults more generally, these included:
- 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.
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- HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
- HMICFRS inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England. It also inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also publishes data and thematic reports on areas of particular interest.
- HMCPSI is an independent inspectorate, inspecting the work the work carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and other prosecuting agencies. The purpose of HMCPSI is to enhance the quality of justice and make an assessment of prosecution services that enables or leads to improvement in their efficiency effectiveness and fairness.
- This is the first time that HMICFRS and HMCPSI has inspected how the police and wider criminal justice system deals with older victims of crime. For this report, HMICFRS and HMCPSI used a definition of 60 years of age for elderly people.
- Alongside the report, the inspectorates also published qualitative research from BritainThinks, who spoke to 31 older victims of crime living across England and Wales.
- For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.
- HMCPSI’s press office can be contacted from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 7210 1160.