Research has shown that autistic children are being abused at school and disabled adults have been ruthlessly manipulated by drug gangs.  ‘Mate crimes’ relate to the coercion and bullying of those on the autism spectrum.

One brother of an adult man with autism said: “My brother was befriended by neighbours.  “They robbed him of several items and also stored drugs in his flat so that if the police raided their flat, nothing would be found.”


“Once he was made to steal. He was even made to pull his pants down. He’s had money taken and he’s been threatened.”

In response, Wirral charity Autism Together has written to David Lidington, the Secretary of State for Justice, to persuade the Law Commission to recognise the harrowing impact of mate crimes.

Autism Together staff and service users as part of their Together Against Mate Crime campaign. (Image: Handout)

The letter reads: “In many cases, such is their vulnerability that they don’t know it isn’t normal to be physically, emotionally or sexually abused; for their homes to be used as drug dens, for their money to be taken, for their possessions to be borrowed and never returned, for their loved ones to force them into prostitution.

“We call this abusive behaviour ‘mate crime’. It takes many forms – it has even led to murder. It needs to be recognised in law and stopped.”  There have been two cases of mate crime-related murder – though none on Merseyside.

Autism Together hopes its letter will trigger a vulnerable persons bill or expand the definition of current controlling and coercive behaviour offences.

Its 2015 report on mate crimes revealed 80% of respondents over 16 with autism had experienced some form of bullying or manipulation within friendship groups.

Robin Bush, Autism Together’s Chief Executive, said: “We’ve already put the strongest case possible to the Law Commission and provided real-life examples of mate crime happening in our region.

Robin Bush, CEO of Autism Together, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice about ‘mate crimes’. (Image: Handout)

“Now we need David Lidington and his team at the Ministry of Justice to understand that families are desperate for help. With their backing, we hope to persuade the Law Commission to take action.”

Detective Chief Inspector Martin Earl said: “Merseyside Police is dedicated to protecting all vulnerable victims of crime and we would always encourage people to report any crime against victims with any form of learning disability, which we will fully investigate with sensitivity and compassion.

“We also encourage members of the community including friends, families and carers to speak out on behalf of vulnerable people, who may not always be able to spot signs of exploitation for themselves

“We have recently collaborated with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) and the Cheshire Autism Practical Support (ChAPS) and Autism Together charities to launch the Autism Attention Card, which helps people with Autism Spectrum Condition to receive appropriate support in an emergency situation and provides training for staff to engage more effectively with people with hidden vulnerabilities.

“This proven initiative will help protect vulnerable people within our communities. Merseyside Police is determined to provide the best quality of service we can for vulnerable people.”

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.