Pensioners turn to life of crime ‘to make ends meet’

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ELDERLY people’s charities today warned that more pensioners were turning to crime “to make ends meet” after figures showed over-65s were charged with more than 100 cases of shoplifting in the Lothians last year.

Pensioners were also accused of dozens of assaults and offences such as stalking, drug dealing and carrying knives.

In total, more than 600 charges were levelled against over-65s, including more than 100 cases of breach of the peace, in 2011.

The oldest people charged with crimes were a pair of 91-year-olds while 29 charges were made against pensioners in their 80s.

As well as shoplifting, pensioners were behind 13 other counts of theft and two 
housebreakings.

A small rise in pensioner crime in the force area was recorded since the end of 2008, but police said they were committed to investigating offending “regardless of age”.

Campaigners for the elderly said that pensioners could be turning to crime in response to the ongoing recession.

Greg McCracken, spokesman for the Age Scotland charity, said: “The increase in crimes carried out by older 
offenders across the Lothians reflects a similar trend in other parts of the world.

“Of course, there are career criminals around who are not immune to the ageing process, but victims of crime will probably be less concerned about the age of the perpetrator and more about whether they are caught and prosecuted.”

Mr McCracken added: “However, criminologists suggest that increasing pensioner poverty, the breakdown of the extended family and a lack of professional help for those with depression and other mental illnesses are all contributory factors in this increase.”

Last year, over-65s were charged with nine cases of fraud, 12 of vandalism and 11 of urinating in public.

Police brought 18 charges of racially aggravated conduct, five for possession of an offensive weapon and one case of possessing a firearm.

Sex offences also made up a number of the charges. During 2011, there were three rape charges, including one against a girl aged between 13 and 15, seven indecent assaults, and six sexual assaults against boys or girls under the age of six.

Tory justice spokesman David McLetchie said: “These figures show us that some people are never too old for a life of crime. We ought to remember that the dishonest are living longer lives, just as law-abiding citizens are.”

Edinburgh had the highest number of pensioner offenders in the Lothians, with the city’s older residents racking up 347 crimes last year. Bathgate in West Lothian had the second highest total with 37 charges followed by Dalkeith with 21 and Musselburgh with 13.

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are committed to thoroughly investigating every crime, regardless of the age of the suspect.”

NEVER TOO OLD

AMONG the pensioners snared by police over the last year was an 82-year-old man arrested after the discovery of a cannabis farm in a Lothian home.

In February, officers carried out a search of an address in Blackburn, West Lothian, where cannabis plants with an estimated value of £3400 were seized.

The pensioner, along with a 46-year-old man, were set to appear in court over drug offences.

In February 2010, an 85-year-old man stabbed a 74-year-old woman who was the target of his unrequited love and was jailed for two years and eight months.

Joseph McGorman, of Corstorphine, formed an obsession for Benedicta McLean. When she said she was married and didn’t need his affections, he lay in wait at her Edinburgh home.