Explaining why Alliance has signed a petition of concern on the amendment, Stewart Dickson MLA said: “Put simply, this is just bad law. There can be no doubt that every politician in Northern Ireland abhors crimes committed against older people. Alliance is committed to building a safer and shared society for everyone, but the DUP’s amendment to the Justice Bill is bad legislation.
“They want to set minimum sentencing for any physical offence against people aged 65 and over, yet the judiciary already treats the age and vulnerability of the victim as an aggravating factor when deciding on appropriate sentencing.
“The amendment is also too broad, as it covers any incident which leads to or is intended to cause physical injury. As well as the most serious incidents of violent assault, it would also cover very minor injuries or even incidents where there is no injury at all. This could for instance include two people aged over 65 who were to hit each other following an altercation during a night out. This could then result in both being given a seven year sentence even if it is their first offence.
“I believe that it should be up to the judiciary to determine the most appropriate sentence for crimes committed against older people.”