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It’s Disrespectful to Let Old Folks Get Away With Crime

It’s Disrespectful to Let Old Folks Get Away With Crime

  • Current Affairs
  • Opinion

Image credit: Stomp

This, apparently, is not the first time she’s done it. According to CCTV footage published on Stomp, an elderly lady spotted scamming a fishmonger in Pasir Ris struck again more recently at Whampoa Wet Market.

Surprisingly, the fishmonger involved in this latest episode declined to make a police report. All he wants is for other shopkeepers to be aware that this woman is out there. “It’s just S$50,” he added.

But should he in fact have made a police report?

We think so.

There’s no doubt that his reluctance to involve the police has something to do with her age. Back in 2014, the story of the ‘Lying Beggar Auntie’ of Holland Village made headlines. On more than one occasion, passersby who had given to her were quoted as saying that they pitied her for still having to beg at her age.

In both these cases, if the perpetrator had been a young man or woman, surely they would never have gotten away with such swindles.

while they might be old, they’re not always stupid

We don’t realise that this misplaced reverence for the elderly is a by-product of our cultural background as Asians. When we look at older folk, we feel compelled to respect them no matter what. Filial piety is a big part of who we are.

In the process, we forget that the elderly were once young like us. We forget that while they might be old, they’re not always stupid. Sure, some struggle with dementia and slowed cognitive functions. They might also be frail and relatively defenceless.

But these are poor excuses for unscrupulous behaviour. And much like there are many different kinds of young people, there are many kinds of old people. Some are just nasty and immoral individuals.

We would even go so far as to say that we should expect more integrity from seniors. After all, they’ve lived longer. They have more experience. They should know better.

If they choose to be criminals, then they don’t deserve sympathy even if they’re old.


Leniency will only entrench beliefs that seniority entitles you to hurt others and get away with it.

Most people will agree that what these con artists have done are indeed criminal acts. But many will also argue for leniency on the basis of old age.

For the elderly who swindle others, their age is a tool they frequently exploit to manipulate well-meaning members of the public. Their age makes us less likely to be suspicious of them, and they already know this. Won’t leniency just further enable them?

Age, when viewed in isolation, should not be a mitigating factor in how we punish such behaviour. If difficult circumstances drive one to commit a crime out of desperation, then one might deserve a second chance or a lighter sentence.

But receiving more benevolent treatment just for being old? That’s unjust.

No one is above the law, and all crimes deserve equal punishment. Leniency will only entrench beliefs that seniority entitles you to hurt others and get away with it. Whether or not old folks deserve compassion or lighter sentences for their crimes, that’s for the courts and their lawyers to argue.

As for us, we have a responsibility, when it comes to the law, to look at old folks as equal to the rest of us. This, after all, is what genuine respect is about. You simply can’t demand the good side of it without being prepared to face the bad.

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