ACT criminalises elder abuse, introduces jail term

By Naomi Neilson|21 April 2021
ACT criminalises elder abuse

Anyone found guilty of committing financial elder abuse in the ACT could now face up to three years behind bars under a suite of new laws that has also been drafted to protect older Australians from neglect, harm and abuse of vulnerable people.

With almost 15 per cent of older Australians experiencing some form of elder abuse in their formative years, the legislation should provide an important safeguard to prevent any further abuse that leads to harm or a financial benefit. It is hoped that the threat of time behind bars will deter offenders from committing the crime. 

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Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer Andrew Simpson said the ACT’s initiative in introducing a specific crime for elder abuse will give victims and anyone concerned about possible abuse “the confidence to report it to police for investigation”.

“The ACT government is to be commended for these new laws that mean perpetrators will no longer be able to get away with pressuring their elderly mum into signing over her life savings or changing her will for their benefit – something we sadly see too often,” Mr Simpson commented. 

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The Crimes (Offences Against Vulnerable People) Legislation Amendment Act introduced new offences for the abuse of vulnerable people that will criminalise for the abuse that leads to harm or financial benefit, neglect of a vulnerable person and the failure to protect a vulnerable person from a criminal offence.

This will mean that the new laws will protect vulnerable people in care at institutions and in their homes – an acknowledgement that abuse occurs at the hands of family. 

Mr Simpson has used the announcement to call on other states and territories to follow in the ACT’s lead and consider making elder abuse a crime. 

“People are living longer, while deaths from dementia are increasing. This means significant wealth can be tied up for longer in the hands of increasingly vulnerable people. Meanwhile, inheritance impatience is sadly on the rise in many cases, as the next generation is forced to wait longer to access their parents’ assets,” he said. 

ACT criminalises elder abuse, introduces jail term
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