Research has revealed that the criminal justice system is failing to prosecute abusers of elderly people, says a leading charity.
Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) has found through Freedom of Information requests that most agencies, including the police, the courts system, and the Ministry of Justice, fail to keep any significant records of elder abuse.
In particular, the charity found one force that admitted it investigated 76 cases of elder abuse in a year and issued a police caution in each instance, with no ensuing court cases.
To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the charity has noted that in the UK between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are abused in their own homes each year.
For comparison, the NSPCC estimates 400,000 children face abuse each year.
In 2013-14 adult protection teams substantiated 28,000 cases of crimes against older people in England.
However, the police only referred 3,317 (11.8%) to the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.
Of these cases, sexual abuse accounted for 5.3%, but only 1.9% of sexual offences were prosecuted.
Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of AEA, said: “Whether it is a 71-year-old man beaten so badly that his jaw required wiring, or the couple torn apart by abuse after 63 years of marriage – and dying apart – or the man so badly neglected in a care home that visitors were overcome by urine and faeces, the sentence is still suspended, or community service.”
He added: “Elder abuse is a crime and it’s long overdue for it to be treated as one.
“The UK has slipped far behind other countries in this regard, and we are allowing perpetrators to act with impunity. This has to stop.
“We have to send a clear message to these people that crimes against older people will no longer be tolerated or treated leniently.”
FitzGerald also said that he has “no doubt that the Government will argue that we already have enough laws”.
Alistair Burt, the minister of state for community and social care, said: “Every older person deserves to live out their life in health and security.
“Yet, every year, thousands of older people are denied that most basic right because of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.”
He added: “Seniors who experience abuse or neglect face a heightened risk of health complications and premature death, while financial exploitation can rob men and women of the security they have built over a lifetime.
“Tragically, many older people suffer in silence, burdened by fear, shame, or impairments that prevent them from speaking out about abuse.
“We owe it to older people to expose elder abuse wherever we find it and take action to bring it to an end. Together, all of us can play a role in addressing this crisis.”