Mate crime

Mate Crime is a form of hate crime and can become a very serious form of abuse.

Mate Crime is defined as the exploitation, abuse or theft from any person at risk from those they consider to be their friends. Those that commit such abuse or theft are often referred to as ‘fake friends’.

People with disabilities, particularly those with learning disabilities, are often the targets of this type of crime. In some cases victims of mate crime have been badly harmed or even killed.

There are different forms of mate crime, for example:

  • Theft/financial abuse:
    • the abuser might demand or ask to be lent money and then not pay it back
    • the perpetrator might misuse the property of the adult.
  • Physical assault/abuse:
    • the abuser might hurt or injure the  adult.
  • Harassment or emotional abuse:
    • the abuser might manipulate, mislead and make the person feel worthless.
  • Sexual assault/abuse:
    • the abuser might harm or take advantage of the person sexually.

Learning disability and mate crime
People with learning disabilities may be more vulnerable to mate crimes. They may be living very isolated lives, but – like everyone – need friends.

This need is easily exploited. In addition, many people with learning disabilities haven’t had the usual opportunities to become ‘streetwise’ when growing up. Incidents can therefore be more likely to take place when they are in the community, on public transport or using services without support.

Features of mate crime
Mate crimes are likely to happen in private, often in the victim’s own accommodation. They can also happen via social media, where victims are financially or sexually exploited after being befriended online.

Mate crimes often occur within long-term relationships, which may have started out as genuine friendships. They can appear to be real friendships to many observers. 

Identifying mate crime
Indicators of mate crime can be similar to other forms of abuse. Potential signs include:

  • bills not being paid, a sudden lack of money, losing possessions, suddenly changing their will
  • changes in routine, behaviour, appearance, finances or household (new people visiting or staying over, lots of new ‘friends’, lots more noise or rubbish than normal)
  • cutting themselves off from established networks of friends/family and support, missing weekly activities
  • secretive internet or mobile phone use.

Advice and information on what Mate Crime is and how social workers can identify it from the Community Care website www.communitycare.co.uk

The ‘Friend or Fake’ booklet, an easy-read booklet about Hate Crime and Mate Crime produced by the Association for Real Change (ARC) can be found on their website arcuk.org.uk/Friend-or-Fake-Booklet.pdf

Safety Net helps local agencies develop systems to tackle Mate Crime – for more information visit the Arc Safety website arcuk.org.uk/safetynet

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
For prosecution guidance about Disability Hate Crime and other crimes against disabled people, visit the CPS website at  www.cps.gov.uk/disability-hate-crime-and-other-crimes-against-disabled-people-prosecution-guidance

See also our Hate Crime resource and Fraud, scams & safety resource.

Useful Documents