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Mate crime is a form of crime in which a perpetrator befriends a vulnerable person with the intention of then exploiting the person financially, physically or sexually. "Mate" (British slang for 'friend') crime perpetrators take advantage of the isolation and vulnerability of their victim to win their confidence. Research has highlighted common factors in mate crime and hate crime.[1]

In publicity regarding mate crime, Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group states:

"Many vulnerable adults have few friends, and for some vulnerable people, having any friends is better than no friends at all. Mate crime centres around issues of self-belief and self-worth in the vulnerable person. Vulnerable people will often think it's all right for people to walk all over [them], because that's what's happened to them the whole of their lives."[2]

Victims of mate crime may be enticed into committing criminal acts themselves and taking the blame so as to protect the real perpetrator,[3] although the vulnerable person may lack the mental capacity themselves to be treated as a criminal. The National Autistic Society has noted that "Many people with autism desperately want to have friends, but may struggle to know the best ways of starting and maintaining friendships" and are therefore at risk of mate crime abuse.[4]

In 2011 a serious case review following the death of Gemma Hayter found "clear evidence that Hayter was susceptible to abuse, as it was known she had suffered 'mate crime' regularly over some time" and noted that "an overall lack of thoroughness and information-sharing led to 'a number of missed opportunities' to find out what was happening more generally in her life and the company she was keeping".[5]

In the United Kingdom, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advises its prosecutors to avoid referring to "mate crime":

"People with learning disabilities or mental health issues are often 'befriended' by people who then exploit them. The term 'mate crime' is used by some disability organisations within the disabled community to raise awareness of the issue. It is not CPS policy to use this phrase as it may introduces further confusion regarding terminology and is potentially confusing to people with learning disabilities."[6]

When there is a suspicion that mate crime has been committed the police should be notified.[7] Local procedures for safeguarding vulnerable adults should also be followed.


  1. ^ Hampshire Police, Mate Crime Good Practice Guidance, accessed 3 December 2015
  2. ^ Trafford CCG, Mate Crime Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 3 December 2015
  3. ^ Wirral Autistic Society launches Merseyside-wide campaign to stamp out 'mate crime' affecting vulnerable disabled people , accessed 3 December 2015
  4. ^ National Autistic Society, The Protection of Children and Young People with Autism from Violence and Abuse, accessed 3 December 2015
  5. ^ Walker, P., Gemma Hayter case review finds chances were missed to protect her, The Guardian, 14 November 2011, accessed 4 January 2016
  6. ^ Crown Prosecution Service, Guidance on Prosecuting Cases of Disability Hate Crime, accessed 13 December 2015
  7. ^ Hampshire Police, Mate Crime Good Practice Guidance, accessed 3 December 2015