Scotland could be one of the first countries in the world to treat elder abuse as a hate crime, according to Justice Minister Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yousaf, who took on the justice brief in June, said he was considering whether targeting victims because of their age should be treated as an aggravating factor by the courts – putting such crimes on a par with those targeting because of race, sexuality or disability.

He said he was speaking in light of the recommendations of a recent review of hate crime laws headed by Lord Bracadale. In his report the retired Court of Session judge called for new statutory provisions for courts to recognise any offences involving the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Lord Bracadale also argued that offences against the elderly should be a hate crime where it could be shown an offender was motivated by hostility based on a person’s age.

"I have looked at Lord Bracadale's recommendation," Mr Yousaf said. "As far as I know we could be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to have an aggravation on age, making sure we stand up for the elderly and vulnerable and for the dreadful way they are targeted by some."

Speaking to the Sunday Post, he added that he was influenced by his own experiences as well as the judge's findings. "Obviously I am a victim, numerous times over of hate crime and I am trying to bring my own experience to this role.

"Unfortunately as a constituency MSP you hear more and more cases of people being scammed, exploited and defrauded because of their age and I am very open to looking at this."

The charity Action on Elder Abuse estimates around 100,000 older people in Scotland suffer some form of abuse each year. This can be physical, psychological, sexual or financial in nature and is often serious enough to constitute a criminal offence. But the charity says many cases don't even reach the courts and of those that do, many result in deferred sentences or community service rather than custodial sentences.

Lesley Carcary, Director of Action on Elder Abuse Scotland, said: “Currently, the decision to apply a tougher sentence in cases involving older victims is at the discretion of the judge. That’s not good enough.

"What our older people and their families need is the reassurance that criminals who prey on them will receive a punishment that fits the crime. That reassurance must come in the form of a statutory aggravated offence to ensure consistency in our justice system.”

Mr Yousaf's comments were welcomed by charities campaigning for the rights of older people. Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland said: "The Scottish Government are making all the right noises about the recommendations in the Bracadale report."