A man who attempted to steal money from residents of an aged care home in Brisbane was yesterday sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. Andrew James Murphy, a 56-year-old man from Roma in Queensland, was labelled ‘highly cowardly’ by Brisbane Magistrate Michael Quinn.

Around 3pm on February 17th 2020, Mr Murphy was found in the Salvation Army aged care home at Chapel Hill. He was searching through the belongings of residents, looking for money. He had accessed seventeen residents’ rooms, including the room of a 100-year-old man who is living with dementia.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Carrie Davidson said that Mr Murphy searched cupboards and drawers, rifling through personal property. Sgt Davidson noted that it did not appear that anything had been stolen, but added that some of the aged care residents living with dementia and other cognitive impairments could not tell if things were missing.

Mr Murphy has a long history of theft and other convictions. In 2012, he broke into St Joseph’s Primary School in Nambour and stole $39 from the after-school care cupboard before being found by the school’s groundsman. At the time of both the Chapel Hill aged care home incident, and St Joseph’s, Mr Murphy was on parole relating to other offences.

Magistrate Quinn was scathing of Mr Murphy during his sentencing, labelling his offending ‘disgraceful.’ ‘You, sir, are a thoroughly dishonest person,’ Magistrate Quinn said. ‘You are totally self-centred and think of no one but yourself and don’t care about whose lives and whose happiness you ruin.’

It was noted that Mr Murphy had violated the safety and sanctity of the aged care home and the elderly residents who live there. Magistrate Quinn said that Mr Murphy’s actions caused considerable distress to the residents, and that he would have upset their enjoyment of life.

Crimes such as theft targeting older people are of particular concern to advocates for the elderly. A 2007 UK enquiry into crime against older people shone a light on the increased risks to victims of crime who are aged 65 or over. Sir Ken MacDonald, then Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK, noted that ‘feeling and being unsafe or “at risk” has a significant negative impact on older people’s health’. Psychological effects after a traumatic event like a break in or theft of personal belongings can be severe in elderly people. Common responses include fear of further burglary, anxiety or depression, and sleep disorder.

For any of us, the violation of our home space is distressing. For residents, having someone enter their personal room without their consent, is particularly distressing.

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