“People with autism can be extremely naive when it comes to friendships – mostly because they struggle to form relationships . It’s heartbreaking to hear about cases of mate crime and we’ll keep fighting to have this horrible, hidden crime brought out into the open”.

Chief executive of Autism Together, Robin Bush

A national campaign for legislation to protect people with autism and learning disabilities from ‘mate crime’ is being spearheaded by north west charity Autism Together.

Mate crime happens when vulnerable people are abused and manipulated by those they consider to be friends. No English law exists to protect people in these circumstances – although Scotland and Wales both have laws in place.

The charity says it’s aware of numerous examples of mate crime: people with autism being manipulated into football hooliganism, coerced into paying hundreds of pounds for nights out for friends, having their Disability Living Allowance plundered and unwittingly storing drugs for so-called mates.  It says this is just the tip of the iceberg and that mate crime can also involve sexual exploitation and physical abuse.

The proposed change to the law, suggested by Autism Together to the Law Commission,  calls for:

  • A legal definition of mate crime, as the term isn’t recognised by the police or judiciary
  • The introduction of banning orders for those suspected of manipulating the vulnerable
  • Legal protections for social workers wishing to investigate suspicious activity

Chief executive of Autism Together, Robin Bush, said, “Working with a leading barrister and other charity partners, we made our submission to the Law Commission late last year. The commission is looking at hundreds of requests for new laws. We were told recently that our submission has made it onto a shortlist. We’ll hear late next month if our application has been successful.”

“People with autism can be extremely naive when it comes to friendships – mostly because they struggle to form relationships . It’s heartbreaking to hear about cases of mate crime and we’ll keep fighting to have this horrible, hidden crime brought out into the open”.

A 2015 survey by Autism Together* found that 80 per cent of people with autism in Merseyside questioned had felt bullied or taken advantage of by someone they considered a friend. The charity, which supports 450 people on the autism spectrum, then set up specialist hate and mate crime reporting units at three of its premises.

Anyone concerned about this issue can telephone 0151 666 9960 for a confidential discussion.

*In spring 2015 an online survey questionnaire exploring the issue of mate crime amongst people with autism in Merseyside was created by Autism Together (then Wirral Autistic Society). 141 responses were obtained, all were anonymous.  Respondents were either people with autism (responding by themselves or with support) or the parents/carers of those with autism.  The report is available here.