Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl is calling for tougher sentences for criminals who target the elderly during the Corona Virus crisis.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the PCC – who emphasises care for older people in his Police and Crime Plan – sets out his plans to safeguard the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
In an unprecedented move, he has:
- Asked his Chief Constable to prioritise investigations of any suspected cases of fraud against older people who are self-isolating.
- Called-on the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the South West to prioritise potential charging decisions
- Informed the Chair of the local Magistrates’ Bench that Gloucestershire police may oppose bail in such cases, when previously they may not.
Mr. Surl said, “Whilst there have been many heart-warming examples of communities supporting each other, 40 years’ experience within policing and justice tells me that will not always be the case and that there will be a small minority in society who will see this crisis as an opportunity to scam, defraud, exploit or undermine those who are most vulnerable.
“There are already reports from the National Crime Agency of criminals posing as health officials in order to trick victims of the virus. In such cases where proven, I believe the public would expect and fully support a severe sentence, with the likelihood of a substantial period of custody, for anyone who commits fraud or deception against the elderly who are self-isolating. Or any crime that takes advantage of the current pandemic.
“I have every confidence in the independence of the judiciary and it is with great respect that I have written to the Secretary of State asking him to speak out and consider some revisions to the sentencing guidelines that reflect the current climate.
“The Theft Act and other legislation provides ample provision to deal with those who criminally seek to gain from this pandemic. However, it is essential that those who transgress must be in no doubt that, if found guilty, their crime will attract a sentence at the higher end of the provisions within the law.
“My experience also leads me to hope, and believe, that many within the criminal fraternity would deplore such crimes and support the view that crimes against the vulnerable are unacceptable.
“A strong message from the Secretary of State to those who would criminally seek to exploit the vulnerable would, in my opinion, be timely and welcomed by the public”.