Dedicated team fighting increased elderly abuse

DI Sean McMahon of South Yorks Police's Public Protection Dept
DI Sean McMahon of South Yorks Police's Public Protection Dept
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A DEDICATED police unit is tackling abuse of vulnerable people - as figures show alerts have more than doubled over the last two years.

Detective Inspector Sean McMahon runs South Yorkshire Police’s public protection unit, based at the force’s Snig Hill headquarters in Sheffield city centre.

He said, while his team of 20 officers who investigate physical, financial and sexual abuse of vulnerable people, has had a number of successes, tackling some cases can be difficult and ‘only a low percentage’ end up in court.

He said: “Much abuse happens within families or care homes and the abusers are often people who have befriended their victims, who fear they may be isolated if they report it. We can only prosecute this with the victim’s consent.”

However, he said he believes the rise in alerts - cases referred to the police and other public protection bodies such as social services - are due to victims being more confident to report incidents and authorities working together to investigate concerns more thoroughly than before.

He does not believe the rise reflects a major increase in abuse, apart from financial, which is due to recession-hit seeing the vulnerable as ‘soft targets’.

The unit’s work will soon be helped by a member of Sheffield Council’s adult social services team.

Det Insp McMahon said: “We will be able to work more closely together on cases.”

Data released by Sheffield Council shows alerts to social services about abuse of elderly people and those with disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health problems increased from 741 in 2008/9 to 1,179 in 2009/10 and 1,586 in 2010/11. Of those, 343 were referred for investigation in 2009/10 and 428 in 2010/11.