Islington Pensioners Forum debates: ‘Should people with dementia be tagged?’

Islington Pensioners Forum at the town hall today. From left: Edmund Zissler, PC Gary Jones, forum c

Islington Pensioners Forum at the town hall today. From left: Edmund Zissler, PC Gary Jones, forum chairman George Durack, Joyce Herron, PC Catherine Menzies and PC Stacey McGhee. Picture: Chris Wood - Credit: Archant

If people with dementia are at risk of going missing, is it right to tag them? It was the thought provoking question debated at an Islington Pensioners Forum meeting today.

In recent months, the Met has released a number of appeals for Islington dementia sufferers who have gone missing. One man, from Holloway, went missing twice.

With five Islington officers attending the meeting in the town hall, secretary Dot Gibson raised the issue of electronic tagging – usually used on criminals under curfew.

Ms Gibson said: “We do have to consider their rights. Tagging is a big affront for someone to be walking around with their location beamed to a control centre.”

But she added: “This is a subject we should debate. It’s very hard to discuss, as many people are scared stiff of dementia.

“One thing that has happened over the years is that dementia has been considered more of a social problem than an illness. That is starting to catch up, as people are living longer. Ever more are vulnerable to dementia, and yet resources aren’t there to look after them.”

Sgt Stacey McGhee, who polices the Clerkenwell ward, was not keen on the idea: “Tagging would be costly, and some would argue about human rights. I would argue for getting people to wear a distinctive bracelet or necklace 24 hours a day, so they can easily be identified if they do go missing.”

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Sgt McGhee and her officers were visiting as she admitted police are guilty of focusing on young people while “doing very little with pensioners to find out what their main concerns are”.

Among other issues raised were scam burglaries. Sgt McGhee said the culprits are usually men working in pairs who target pensioners. “There are horrible, cowardly people,” she said. “In my opinion, this is one of the worst crimes.

“One will look to occupy you about a made-up ‘problem’ in your home while the other goes into your bedroom looking for valuables. “Always remember, if there are no issues you’re aware of, or if nothing has been highlighted by your neighbours, don’t let these people in.”