* The ‘Grey Crime Wave’

Apparently there is a significent rise in the number of elderly people committing crimes. Over 60’s are now the fastest-growing section of the prison population in the U.K. There are currently almost 2,500 people in this age group incarcerated in British prisons. Kingston prison in Plymouth has become the first in the country to provide a special ‘elderly wing’ with stair lifts and other adaptations. If it wasn’t so serious a reflection on both the sort of society we live in and the circumstances of some older people, it would be farcical – the scenario for a comic film of the 1950’s.

5,217 crimes were committed by senior citizens in Scotland last year, and the numbers charged with drug and weapon crimes more than doubled in four years, from 36 to 80. In the county of Derbyshire 260 over-65’s were arrested for serious crimes in 2009 compared to 88 the previous year. Whilst as a percentage of all crime, offences by older people remains low, new statistics supplied by the police show a rise of 15%and 25% in the numbers of pensioners being arrested (and charged?)

Bill Tupman, a criminologist at Exeter University believes that part of the reason for this is a harder attitude towards pensioners by the police and the Law Courts.

Harry Fletcher of the Probation Officers’ Union says there is a total absence of strategy for the ageing prison population. They are last in the queue for support at a time when the government is instituting crippling cutbacks in community care. ‘The issue is being ignored’.

Apparently this is an international phenomenon. Researchers found in the Netherlands that a startlingly high percentage of over-60’s appearing in court had undiagnosed dementia. A French report says that an ageing population is going to lead to an almost automatic rise in crime by senior citizens. It argues that the country’s criminal system would need to be overhauled to handle the growth in older criminals, and jails will have to be modified to cater for inmates with Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses.

I find that last statement horrifying. Is society becoming unable or unwilling to distinguish between crimes committed by rational people and those by people who are sick?

* Thanks to an article by Tracy McVeigh in yesterday’s Observer

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