North Antrim MLA Robin Swann has called on the Justice Minister “to classify attacks on the elderly as hate crimes and to radically increase the punishments for those found guilty by the courts of such heinous attacks on older people”.
He was speaking after an elderly couple in their 70s were held at gunpoint at their home in Ballymoney during a burglary.
Two masked men, wearing dark clothing and armed with suspected firearms, forced entry to the house at Lisnagat Road at around 1am.
They threatened and tied up the two occupants and then ransacked the house. The men left the house a short time later with a sum of money. Both occupants were left very badly shaken by their ordeal, the elderly man suffering a suspected heart attack.
Assemblyman Swann appealed to constituents to give whatever information they could to the police about “this terrifying incident” so that the “heartless thugs responsible will be brought before the courts and hopefully face the full wrath of the law”.
He added: “There are a number of core values which need to be at the heart of what the UUP holds dear in ensuring we do what is right for the people of Northern Ireland, and especially our elderly constituents.
“An ageing population means that we have more pensioners living in their homes in towns and in rural areas.
“It is, therefore, crucial that the PSNI make community policing a priority. Putting officers on the ground, on the beat, is essential to offer a frontline visual deterrent to criminals who prey on the elderly.
“In this respect, I urge that crimes against the elderly be classified as a hate crime which carries much tougher sentences from the courts. I appeal to the Justice Minister and the entire Stormont Executive to rally behind the elderly in our community and impose exceptionally tough sentences for those convicted of crimes against this vulnerable section of society,” said Assemblyman Swann.