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New PhD thesis on disability and mate crime

The picture shows Ged dressed a jacket and tie, smiling.

Dr Ged Doherty

Congratulations to Dr Ged Doherty on passing his PhD examination with a thesis on the nature and extent of mate crime offending against disabled people and institutional responses.

Mate crimes are said to occur when disabled people are victimised by people purporting to be their friends. Cases can escalate and several murders of disabled people have been attributed as mate crimes. Although under-researched, mate crime has been construed as a form of hate crime and its understanding has also been informed by contributions from disability studies. This study sought to explore the nature and extent of mate crime and how institutions were responding to it. To achieve this, a mixture of methods was used, including a survey of all police forces in England and Wales, a case study of police records and a series of interviews with key stakeholders, including representatives of disabled people. The research revealed that mate crimes are typically perpetrated against disabled people living alone in deprived areas. Often incidents involve groups of local people repeatedly targeting victims in their own homes. Perception of offending can often be blurred or obscured by the presence of familiarity. From a theoretical perspective, the evidence suggested that victims may be targeted not just because they are different, but also because of perceived relational disadvantages connected with their impairments. In common with previous research into disability hate crimes, this study indicated an inadequate institutional response to mate crime. The suggestion of ineffectiveness was apparent not just in the police and other criminal justice responses, but also in the response of multi-agency Safeguarding Adult services. It seemed that this may be due to inadequate institutional data, a tendency to attribute abuse to a victim’s impairment and a misplaced focus on vulnerability. The results of the study were interpreted by reference to a model of the course of mate crime which incorporates references to hate crime as well as disability studies. Recommendations for an improved response to mate crime are also provided.