THE director of a crime victim support group has said that victims are the ones left paying as perpetrators continue to be handed suspended sentences.
Sally Hanlon, from Support After Crime on Anglesea St, said she is seeing a number of elderly service users forced to leave their homes due to fears around the perpetrators of crimes against them still roaming the streets. Others say they would never have become victims of crime if their perpetrator had been brought to justice for previous crimes.
Ms Hanlon said she is aware of some older people who took up residence in nursing homes based on fears around their safety.
Speaking of the service users she deals with, Ms Hanlon said: “The main element is fear and anxiety that this will happen again.
“Many of those who are robbed or even held hostage are not young. That’s not to say that if they were young it would take away from the crimes. We have had a good few who were affected in this way. For them, the feelings are real, even if this fear is only perceived.”
She said crimes against older people have become more disturbing in recent years.
“Those committing the crimes have become even more reckless because they no longer have the fear of any consequences,” Ms Hanlon said. “I don’t agree with suspended sentences. By the time the criminals are brought back to court following a suspended sentence they have already done a lot more damage.
“Judges need to be stricter. They need to listen to gardaí but above all they need to listen to the victims.
“I believe that if a criminal comes back before the court after a suspended sentence then their punishment should be doubled.
“We have dealt with quite a few people who feel that if the law was administered properly then they wouldn’t have become victims.”
Meanwhile, Cork advocate for the elderly Paddy O’Brien said he had visited a number of elderly people who felt they had no option but to move to a nursing home after being targeted by criminals.
“It has destroyed the lives of many people who were living happily before this,” he said.
“I’ve seen people who have had to go and live with a son or daughter after being affected by a crime and things haven’t worked out.
“The presence of gardaí needs to be strengthened in areas where there is a high concentration of elderly people. This would alleviate the fears of many people living there.
“These crimes are happening in broad daylight. I spoke to one woman four months ago who came home to find her house had been burgled after Mass.
“People are needing long-term care now, not because of any health issue but simply because of fear. Fear deteriorates quality of life. The person might not have even been directly affected by the crime. All it could take is a crime in the area for somebody to withdraw and leave out of fear.
“When something like this happens it can lead a person to wonder ‘am I next?’. This type of fear affects the whole community.”
- For information about victim support services, see: supportaftercrimeservices.ie/about-us.php