In recent years, vulnerable adults with learning disabilities are being subjected to a severely under reported crime. This is been called ‘mate crime’, and can include physical abuse, torture and, at its extreme, even murder.
Steven Hoskins had learning difficulties and endured months of abuse from people he though were his friends.
He was tortured and taken to a viaduct where his ‘friends’ forced him to hang from the railings by his fingers. His hands were then stamped on causing him to fall 100ft to his death in 2006.
Steven was a victim of what is now referred to as ‘mate crime’. Mate crime is defined by perpetrators befriend vulnerable adults with learning disabilities and exploit them.
The scale of abuse is broad. It can include having food and transport paid for as well as ‘cuckooing, where the abuser(s) use their victim’s homes as their own.
At its most extreme, as in Steven’s cases, abuse can be fatal.
The Association for Real Change (ARC UK) was so concerned over the instances of mate crime that it started a campaign in 2009, which has run for 3 years.
They say that financial abuse is typical of mate crime and have experience of talking to a group of Asperger’s who talked about ‘Tuesday friends’. Tuesday was the day that their benefits got paid and a particular group of people would turn up and help them to the cash point, help them spend them to a pub and help them spend all their money.
These ‘friends’ would not be seen until the next Tuesday.
The organisation has said funding for the campaign has run out and they are concerned that without a sustained national campaign; more vulnerable adults with learning disabilities will be abused by people pretending to be their friends.
Often adults with learning difficulties find it hard to make friendships of any sort and when it comes to abusive ones, they may feel that any friend is better than none.
Swain & Co.’s community care solicitors say that the problem is that much of the mate crime is not being reported.
One of the key points of the Mental Capacity Act is that every adult has the right to make their own decisions and must be assumed that they have capacity to do so, unless it is proved otherwise.
This includes bad decisions as well as the good ones.
With social media being more common place, the internet is fast becoming the new place for mate crimes to be committed.
Community care covers care and treatment that vulnerable adults may be receiving, including elderly and vulnerable people. Swain & Co. can represent the vulnerable adult themselves or members of their families. We also provide assistance with Benefits and Grants, Funding of Care, Disputes and Compensation Claims, and Residential Care.
If you need assistance with Community Care issues, please contact our specialist team on 02380 631111 (Southampton) or 02392 479290 (Havant).
We can also act on a legal aid basis for Southampton, South Hampshire, Portsmouth area and beyond.