Lagan Valley DUP MLA Edwin Poots has expressed regret that a petition of concern was used to block an amendment made to the Justice Bill which would have delivered stiffer penalties for those who use violence against the elderly.
“All SF members and individuals from SDLP and Alliance Party were joined by Basil McCrea in using the blocking mechanism which is meant to protect minorities,” he said.
“In this instance it has been used to ensure that a means to give greater protection to the elderly was denied.
“During the debate a number of cases reported in the Ulster Star were highlighted including the brutal attack on Mr and Mrs Green, a violent attack on a couple in their seventies from the Saintfield Road and a malicious fire at an elderly couples home on the Moss Road.
“In all, using 2013 as a base year, almost 5,000 attacks took place against the elderly with 200 violent attacks and 37 sexual attacks reported.
“Alarmingly only 4% of cases were brought to court, this is a huge failure on the part of all the authorities to adequately protect the elderly.
“The proposed amendment I brought forward would have led to a minimum sentence of seven years for violent attacks, which would have made for a much tougher punishment regime and consequently been a major disincentive to those who would use violence against elderly people.
“While the amendment was blocked it is my intention to do more work on this issue to ensure we have a fairer society that seeks to protect our elderly population.”