A disturbing increase in attacks on Queensland's most vulnerable people has police calling for offenders who assault the elderly to be jailed automatically.
Since 2005, the number of sex attacks on people 65 and over has trebled from just eight to 29 a year.
And assaults have climbed by almost 20 per cent, from 212 to 254.
A series of high-profile attacks in the past 12 months has added to the perception that elderly people are increasingly at risk of violence in Queensland.
Last Tuesday, an 82-year-old grandmother raking leaves in her Rockhampton backyard was subjected to a horrific sexual assault, allegedly by an 18-year-old man armed with a fire extinguisher.
Yesterday, she remained in the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Cairns charity worker Maria Ball did not survive the shocking attack on her on May 24 last year as she walked to a market.
And in August, elderly Mount Isa couple Fred and Phyllis Mabb were bashed to death in their own home.
Bond University criminologist Professor Paul Wilson said the vicious nature of the assaults and the rising number of attacks on the elderly was a sad indictment on society.
"It's another indicator of the callousness and disregard for the vulnerable in our society," Professor Wilson said.
"And the elderly certainly are a vulnerable group."
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said people convicted of assaults on people older than 65 should be automatically jailed for a minimum of three months. "People who viciously and callously assault the elderly should have the book thrown at them," Mr Leavers said.
Ceciley Rowell, 75, has first-hand experience of the courts' lenient treatment of violent offenders.
She was left with permanent hand injuries after being dragged 10m over bitumen in a frightening drive-by bag snatch at Stafford in 2006 but her attackers were free within a year.
"I check the papers every day for their names. It has totally changed my life," Ms Rowell said.
"I live like a prisoner. I always check the house 100 times before I leave, and another 100 times when I get home."
Mr Leavers said police were sick of arresting people who commit crimes of extreme violence only to have the courts impose little or no actual jail time.
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