Shepparton News

Age is no barrier for justice as older offender numbers rise

- By Darren Linton

The number of offenders aged 60 and over being sentenced in Victoria has increased substantia­lly over the past 10 years, well beyond the growth of the demographi­c in the Victorian population.

A new report from the Sentencing Advisory Council found the trend is also leading to an increase in older prisoners in Victoria.

The Sentencing Advisory Council’s report examined more than 30,000 offenders sentenced when aged 60 and over during the past decade.

These ‘older offenders’ accounted for 4 per cent of all cases in the Magistrate­s’ Court and 6 per cent of all cases in the higher courts.

Council chair, Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg, said the research showed the pursuit of historic sex offences had led to more older offenders coming before the courts.

Sixty-seven per cent of older sex offenders faced justice 10 years or more after the offending occurred, with almost one in five (18 per cent) sentenced 40 years or more after the offending.

‘‘Courts in Victoria have consistent­ly said that if you offend against children, the passage of time will not prevent the criminal justice system from holding you to account for what you have done. That is also what this report shows,’’ he said.

In the Magistrate­s’ Court the number of cases involving older people annually rose from 2523 in 2010 to 4645 in 2019.

The report found this was mainly caused by an almost doubling of cases of traffic/ vehicle offences involving older offenders.

Professor Freiberg said the challengin­g of traffic and vehicle offences might reflect the lack of capacity many older people had to pay fines.

‘‘For someone on a pension, an infringeme­nt penalty can represent a substantia­l amount of money. That is part of why we previously recommende­d reduced infringeme­nt penalties for people experienci­ng financial hardship,’’ he said.

The number of older people sentenced to imprisonme­nt each year between 2010 and 2019 more than doubled (from 94 to 200 cases), which the report said partly explained Victoria’s ageing prison population.

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