Mate crime

How do you know when a friend is really a friend?

Most friends really are friends… but sometimes people might pretend to be your friend. People who commit Mate Crimes might be nice to your face. These people are often not rude, violent or aggressive, nor do they steal your things. They pretend to be nice to you.

  • Mate Crime does not start with bullying but it can become bullying.
  • It starts with people saying they are your friend.
  • Mate Crimes often happen in private and are not seen by others.
  • Mate Crimes are Disability Hate Crimes and should be reported to the Police.

All of these might be a Disability Hate Crime:

  • Kids throwing stones at my window.
  • Someone borrowing my mobile and using up all the credit.
  • A group of people beating me up outside the local shops and stealing my shopping.
  • My mate coming round every time it’s my benefit day so we can go to the pub and spend my money.
  • Family members taking my money from me without asking.
  • My friend comes round every Thursday and we go out in his car for the afternoon. He only charges me 20 quid for petrol each time.
  • My neighbour calling me names when she sees me.
  • People sending abusive text messages to my mobile phone.
  • My mates always come to my flat for a party on a Friday night – I don’t mind getting the food and drink in for them.
  • My boyfriend saying I should have sex with other men for money.

80% of autistic people say they have been bullied or manipulated.

A report on mate crimes revealed 80% of respondents over 16 with autism had experienced some form of bullying or manipulation within friendship groups.

To report any offences against vulnerable victims, always call 999 if a crime is in action, or contact 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

How can you spot Mate Crime?

These are the signs you need to look out for. If you notice any of these things it could mean the person is a victim of Mate Crime.

  • Changes in routine, behaviour, appearance, finances or household (e.g. new people visiting or staying over, lots of new ‘friends’, lots more noise or rubbish than there normally is).
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Being involved in sexual acts which they have not agreed to.
  • Losing weight.
  • Not taking care of themselves and looking dirty or scruffy.
  • Bills not being paid.
  • A ‘friend’ who does not respect, bullies or undermines the person.
  • Suddenly short of money, losing possessions or changing their will.
  • The person ‘doing what they are told to’ by a ‘friend’.
  • Showing signs of mental ill health.
  • Not being with usual networks of friends/family or missing weekly activities.
  • Goods or packages arriving at a person’s house (and then being collected by someone else soon after).
  • The house is a mess after lots of parties.

Arc UK have produced a Fake or Friend easy read booklet.

What is Mate Crime?

There is no statutory definition of mate crime in UK law. The term is generally understood to refer to the befriending of people, who are perceived by perpetrators to be vulnerable, for the purposes of taking advantage of, exploiting and/or abusing them. This can strongly be associated, but not exclusively associated, with people with a learning disability, learning difficulties or mental health conditions.

Mate crime involves additional and complex issues to understand which sometimes resonate with cases of domestic abuse. The perpetrator is likely to be perceived as a close friend, a carer or a family member and will use this relationship for exploitation.

‘Tuesday Friends’ – A typical story is a young person with Asperger’s who had, what he called, his ‘Tuesday Friends’, the day when his benefits arrived. A particular group of people would turn up at his flat, ‘help’ him to the cashpoint and then to the pub where they ‘helped’ him spend his money.

A person experiencing mate crime can sometimes be unaware of any hidden motives. People with a learning disability, learning difficulties or mental health conditions may have less control and ability to develop and maintain friendships and this can lead to an acceptance of unequal relationships. The relationship is likely to be of some duration and, if unchecked, may lead to a pattern of repeat and worsening abuse.