Stewart Dickson MLA said: “We are all appalled at the disgraceful and cowardly attacks against older and vulnerable people that have taken place in the past few weeks. These offences are particularly repugnant and detestable. As a society we have a responsibility to protect older and vulnerable people
“And while it may offer little consolation to those elderly people who are a victim of an assault, statistics show that there has been a reduction in crime. PSNI statistics show that people aged over 65 are least likely to be the victims of violent crime, accounting for less than 2% of violent crime occurring last year.
“Experienced practitioners and social science researchers have long agreed that mandatory penalties are a bad idea. No matter which body of evidence is consulted, the conclusion is the same. There is little basis for believing that mandatory penalties have any significant effects on rates of serious crime. We do not need mandatory sentences to shows the severity of this crime as the Lord Chief Justice has stated that those convicted of assaults against the elderly will receive a heavy punishment.
“The Lord Chancellor has also said that attacks against vulnerable people is already an aggravating circumstance in assessing the seriousness of the offence for sentencing by judges.
“If we are to have a serious discussion about further reducing the rates of violent crime against older and vulnerable people, then we should be talking about how we can continue to support the police and prosecutors to increase convictions, and support community safety partnerships so that the vulnerable are and feel protected.
“I am disappointed that the UUP voted for the motion in the Assembly today which goes in the wrong direction and will not help deter attacks on older people.”