Pensioners consider using crime to get ‘an easy life’

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INCREASING numbers of elderly Scots being charged with criminal offences has been blamed on high poverty levels.

The pensioner ‘crime wave’ was revealed in figures from Scotland’s police forces, which show the most common offences are theft and fraud.

But the charges have even included crimes such as attempted murder, rape and serious assaults.

The oldest offender last year was a 90-year-old man charged with theft in Strathclyde.

John Swinburne, a pensioner rights advocate, says the phenomenon could be linked to poverty levels and claims some elderly people see jail as an “easy life”, compared to the struggle to survive on a state pension.

Last year, 1,577 pensioners were charged with criminal offences – up from 1,480 in 2008.

In Strathclyde alone, 740 charges were dished out to over 65s during 2010, including two charges of attempted murder – a 67-year-old man and an 80-year-old man – and an 83-year-old man was charged with serious assault.

Men committed the majority of the crimes in this age group last year, with women making up just 20 per cent of the charges.

But – women were charged with the majority of thefts – in Strathclyde 77 charges of theft were directed at women, with the eldest aged 81, compared to 57 for men.

Mr Swinburne, a former MSP and leader of the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, said: “Our generation are not holier than thou.

“Perhaps some people are less inclined to commit crimes the older they get but there is probably a similar percentage of criminal activity as in other age brackets.

“It’s not surprising a lot of women pensioners shop-lift.

“If the pension was higher they would not need to resort to a life of crime.

“I have had pensioners well me they have toyed with the idea of committing serious crime to get put in jail and to get a lifestyle that far exceeds one you can get on state benefit.

“It’s impossible to provide accommodation, entertainment and leisure activities on a £97 state pension and yet prisoners get it for free in jails.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The letter of law doesn’t discriminate against your age.

“Whether you are 20 or 70 the police will investigate you and, if they suspect you of being guilty of committing a crime and have evidence to support that, you will be charged.

“However, the vast majority of our prisons are full of males between the ages of 20 and 40.”

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