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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Police reveal rise in hate crime against the elderly (UK)

Police in the Lothians have started recording a new category of hate crime - against pensioners.

The force has been noting age as an "aggravating factor" in crimes committed against the elderly - but also young people - where they believe it was a motive behind an attack.

A total of 43 age-related hate crimes were reported in the force area last year, compared with 23 for the previous year.

Age Concern Scotland welcomed the figures as evidence that police were more aware of crimes being committed against people who were targeted specifically due to their advancing years.

The figures showed that race-related hate crimes had risen to 1241 last year against 1164 in 2009. Hate crime against the disabled and people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community also increased last year.

Inspector Helen Boyle, from the force's diversity unit, said: "Legally, only hate crimes relating to race, sexuality, religion or disability are covered by legislation as aggravating factors. There is nothing that covers age, but Lothian and Borders Police decided we would start to record that too.

"Although it's not covered by the legislation, an offence which we record as having an age-related element could be taken into account during sentencing in court.

"It's actually a fairly even split between hate crimes committed against the young and older people. In the case of older people, it may be that they are being viewed as vulnerable.

"Because we don't have a set standard, it's often up to the perception of the officer investigating an incident to determine whether age was an aggravating factor."

A spokesman for Age Concern Scotland said: "It is encouraging that people are coming forward and reporting these matters to police.

"When elderly people are the victims of a particular attack, I think it's unlikely they would see it in terms of being a hate crime. Perhaps the police are becoming more aware of the issue of elderly abuse."

The number of hate crimes reported against the disabled also rose to 29 last year, compared with 21 for 2009.

Hate crimes against members of the LGBT community climbed from 103 to 131 over the same period.

The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, means that sentencing relating to crimes which are motivated by malice based on a victim's disability or sexual orientation must take into account.

The force's Public Perception Survey 2010 revealed that 60 per cent of hate crime victims did not make a report to police, with many believing that nothing would be done.

The Scotsman