Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Few Elder-Abuse Cases Lead to Criminal Charges, Federal Study Indicates

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Few Elder-Abuse Cases Lead to Criminal Charges, Federal Study Indicates

Article excerpt

Few elder-abuse cases lead to charges: study

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OTTAWA - Only a small proportion of elder-abuse cases investigated by police result in criminal charges because victims want to maintain family relationships and fear winding up in seniors' homes, a federal study suggests.

Justice Department researchers who looked at 453 cases of allegedly abused elderly people handled by Ottawa police over a five-year period found charges were laid in 17 per cent of files.

That's considerably lower than the one-quarter of police probes that typically lead to charges.

In more than half of the elder-abuse cases in which no one was charged, there was either insufficient evidence or the victim refused to co-operate with police.

Possible explanations include a desire to maintain family ties, fear and anxiety about institutionalization and loss of independence, as well as factors such as financial dependency, disability or illness, the study says.

"The vulnerabilities that put older Canadians at risk of victimization can also create barriers to criminal investigations and the criminal justice system as a response."

One police officer told the researchers the elderly are reluctant to pursue charges against their children and as a result police spend a large amount of time walking elders through the benefits of doing so, including the help available for those who are abusive.

According to the 2011 census, there are five million Canadians aged 65 and older -- a segment of the population that's growing rapidly, the study notes.

Slightly more women than men -- 52 per cent female versus 48 per cent male -- were accused of abuse in the Ottawa cases, which covered 2005 to 2010 and were stripped of personal information before being made available to the researchers by the police force's elder-abuse section.

Women, however, represented 70 per cent of victims -- probably because females make up a disproportionate segment of the senior population, the study says. …

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