A charity has urged the Scottish Government to introduce legislation to allow tougher sentences for crimes against older people.
Action on Elder Abuse Scotland wants targeting of vulnerable people to be made a statutory aggravating offence in law, estimating that about 100,000 older people in Scotland suffer some form of abuse each year.
The charity said a recent review of hate crime laws in Scotland, carried out by Lord Bracadale, had paved the way for the change.
The review called on ministers to consider a general aggravation covering exploitation and vulnerability. Lord Bracadale also concluded that there should be a new statutory aggravation based on “age hostility”.
The charity, which holds its annual conference in Glasgow today, said Scotland had the opportunity to lead the UK on the issue, and urged Older People and Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie to act.
It highlighted that many cases involving victims suffering from frailty or dementia do not reach the attention of the police or courts, and those that do often result in community sentences.
Director Lesley Carcary said: “The Scottish Government has shown its commitment by appointing the first minister for older people of any UK nation. We now have an opportunity to go further, however.
“I would urge the Scottish Government to take seriously the recommendations in the Bracadale review and bring forward workable legislation that will finally see the calamitous impact of elder abuse on victims recognised in statute.
“Currently, the decision to apply a tougher sentence in cases involving older victims is at the discretion of the judge. That’s not good enough.
“What older people and their families need is the reassurance that criminals who prey on them will receive a punishment that fits the crime.
“That must come in the form of a statutory aggravated offence to ensure consistency in our justice system.”
The charity also wants more vulnerable people, including older people, to be able to pre-record evidence in court cases.
Ms McKelvie said: “Our vision of a fairer Scotland is one that values the contribution older people make to our society. As such the Scottish Government will do everything in its power to support their rights and interests.
“Lord Bracadale recognised that older people can be targeted by perpetrators because of a perception that they are more vulnerable and so he recommended that the Scottish Government consider the introduction of a general aggravation concerning exploitation of vulnerability.
“We will consult later this year on that and other recommendations in Lord Bracadale’s report.”