Hourglass is pleased that the Scottish Government acted on calls to provide better protections to victims and communities targeted by hate crime. In a move that recognises the need for specific protections for older people, ‘Age’ is now a characteristic protected under hate crime legislation.
This means statutory aggravations are available where the crime is motivated by prejudice against age, and grants the ability to prosecute crimes that stir up hatred against a person or group of people on account of their age. These changes send a strong message that Scotland does not tolerate ageism - prejudicial treatment of older people. This was one of two key recommendations relating to older people in Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland.
While an important development, Hourglass know this is just the first step on a road to proper legislative protections for older people. We urge the Scottish Government to urgently examine where Lord Bracadale’s second recommendation – a statutory aggravation based on vulnerability - can be written into law.
Hate crime legislation is a useful tool to protect victims and communities from prejudicial treatment. Sadly, we know that by far the highest risk to older people is crime that targets their actual or perceived vulnerability. This might be care and support needs, difference in cognitive capacity or isolation and loneliness. Even more tragically, these crimes are more likely than not perpetrated by family members, friends or those in positions of trust.
The changes passed in Parliament last week are welcome, and show a cross party commitment to tackling crime against older people. We need to keep this momentum and close the remaining gaps that leave older people open to terrible experiences of abuse.