Good Practice Guidance
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 the relationship for exploitation.
What Mate Crime May Involve
- Financial Abuse
- The perpetrator might demand or ask to be lent money and then not pay it back
- The perpetrator might misuse or borrow and not return the property of the person
- When the person has received their benefits and been shopping the perpetrator may visit and clear the cupboard of food and alcohol
- Physical Abuse
- The person may be kicked, punched etc. for the amusement of the perpetrator or others
- The person may be seriously injured or ultimately the abuse may result in death
- Emotional Abuse
- The perpetrator might manipulate or mislead the person
- The perpetrator might make them feel worthless
- The perpetrator might call them names
- Sexual Abuse
- The person might be coerced into prostitution
- The person might be sexually exploited by someone they think is their partner or friend
- The person might be persuaded to perform sexual acts they do not feel comfortable with
- Criminal Exploitation
- The perpetrator might coerce or groom the person for criminal offences
- The perpetrator might coerce or groom to exploit labour
What are the features of Mate Crime?
There are features of mate crime which can provide significant challenges to recognise and provide support to victims:
- Social isolation: targeted individuals often lack the support network that many people take for granted and the level of social isolation in which people live, at the margins of society.
- Lack of support from agencies: people who are targeted are often those who do not meet the criteria for a high level of services.
- Fear of reporting: when victims do recognise that something is wrong, they may be afraid to report it.
- Use of threats to control victims: threats are a common feature of hate crimes across the board, but seem to play a particularly strong role in cases of mate crime, where the perpetrators want to control the victim.
- Accusations of sexual misconduct: accusations of a sexual nature are a very common feature of mate crime and are often used by perpetrators to justify an escalation in violence.
- Lack of recognition of requests for help: when victims do try to get help, agencies often fail to act on their reports.
- Unaware of any hidden motives: people with a learning disability, learning difficulties or mental health conditions may have less control and ability to maintain friendships and this can lead to an acceptance of unequal relationships
- Escalation in the level of abuse: the relationship is likely to be of some duration and, if unchecked, may lead to a pattern of repeat and worsening abuse
What are the signs?
Vulnerable adults often do not recognise that they have been the subject of mate crime. The focus of enabling safety needs to be on encouraging an understanding for the individual of their right to make choices, but also their right to remain free from abuse. Victims of mate crime might display noticeable changes in behaviour, such as:
- Unexplained injuries
- Bills not being paid/sudden loss of assets
- Weight loss
- Isolation from usual contacts
- Withdrawal from services
- Changes in behaviour or mood
- An overly critical or disrespectful friend or noticeable forms of control
What should be done?
In many situations mate crime will be an example of disability hate crime and this should be reported to police as such.
Mate crimes require a greater multi-agency response and in many cases can be complex in nature. It can be extremely difficult for a person to come forwards and agencies need to be aware of the signs and potential impacts. This can be due to fear of not being believed; not recognising the abuse as a crime; fear of repercussions, or being afraid to report a perceived friend or family member in many cases.
Action to take when Mate Crime is suspected
- Talk to the service user. What are their views and concerns?
- Appropriate action should be taken to ensure the safety of the victim
- If a crime is suspected, Police must be informed regardless of whether the victim is in agreement
- Safeguarding process should be started when suspicions are raised rather than waiting for hard evidence
- Information from other agencies should be sought
- If the victim receives Direct Payments and the money is being abused, seek advice from the Direct Payments Team e.g. would a ‘managed account’ be more suitable
- Investigate if the victim needs assistance with cancelling bank cards etc.
- Offer assessments/support as appropriate
Research as highlighted common factors in Mate Crime and Hate crime
- Disabled people may be reluctant to report the crimes as they fear they will not be believed.
- There have usually been previous incidents which become regular targeting
- Incidents are likely to escalate in severity and frequency – so services should aim to intervene at an early stage.
- Perpetrators are often ‘friends’, carers, acquaintances or neighbours and victims may be reluctant to sever the relationship
- There may be multiple perpetrators who encourage the main offender
- Perpetrators might make false accusations that the victim is a paedophile or ‘grass’.
- People may be more vulnerable when living alone or associating with peers where the subculture has normalised drug misuse, crime and/or violence.
Cruelty, degrading treatment and humiliation is often related to the person’s disability.
Summary of Good Practice
- Prevent potential victims being the subject of mate crime
- Identify when a vulnerable adult is the victim of mate crime
- Take action when concerns are raised
- Consider involving other agencies and minimise the escalation of the mate crime through a protection plan
- Identify the individual(s) responsible for the crime
- Raise awareness amongst the public and professionals of mate crime
- Enhance ‘safe’ social networks for vulnerable adults – developing positive friendships and relationships within the community so that vulnerable people do not feel isolated and therefore less likely to be a victim of mate crime
- Raising self-esteem and increased self-confidence through advice and guidance so that vulnerable people feel more able to protect themselves.
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