Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, has called on the Stormont 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”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip and North Antrim UUP Chairman, issued his hard-hitting challenge after it emerged an elderly man had suffered a mild heart attack after he and his wife were tied up by burglars at their home outside Ballymoney.
Masked gunmen men broke the glass in the front door to get into the house on Lisnagat Road at about 01:00 BST on Monday. They tied the man’s wife up with the flex of a hairdryer, then used a belt to tie him up, cutting his wrists. The man is still in hospital while his wife has cuts and bruises. Both are in their 70s.
It took them around 10 minutes to free themselves after the burglars left. Both were left badly shaken.
Condemning the 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”.
Assemblyman Swann 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.