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Monday, 01 September 2014

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'Mate crime' on rise in Carlisle

A new trend dubbed ‘mate crime’ is on the rise in Carlisle – leaving victims exploited and abused.

Carlisle Mencap Sheila Gregory photo
Sheila Gregory

The act sees someone forge a friendship with a vulnerable person, usually with learning disabilities, to gain their trust.

The culprit then exploits and abuses that trust, often to steal money from their victim, according to Mencap Carlisle boss Sheila Gregory.

She said ‘mate crime’ is increasing locally and has a big impact on those suffering from it.

“I think some people don't realise how wrong this type of abuse is,” she said. “It is really frightening for the victims and the general public don’t take it seriously enough.”

The alert comes in a major investigation which reveals that hate crimes in the city are being hidden – with many victims “suffering in silence”.

The Carlisle City Council task group, which was formed to raise awareness of hate crimes, find ways of tackling them, and to urge more victims to report them, also found there isn’t enough support available.

Carlisle has the highest rates of hate crime in Cumbria and reported incidents increased by more than 16 per cent in 2011-12, the findings show.

Numbers of hate crimes reported in the city in 2012-13 fell by more than 13 per cent – but this is evidence of under reporting, according to the study.

Between April 2012 and September 2012 there were 100 hate crimes reported in Cumbria – more than a quarter in the north of the county. During the same period last year there were 216 incidents countywide, with 51 in north Cumbria. Out of all 316 incidents, 11 people were charged, police stats show.

Mencap Carlisle also revealed that cyber bullying against people with learning disabilities is a major issue.

And many disabled people are regularly subjected to abuse in the city centre and while travelling on public transport.

“The message is to report any hate crimes to police,” Mrs Gregory said.

Pam Eland of Sticky Bits Cafe and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) HQ in Carlisle, says members are subjected to attacks over their sexuality every day and just want to be integrated and accepted.

“There is a lot of silent suffering going on and we’re not going to put up with it anymore,” she added.

LGBT members also revealed that abuse at work was common and victims fear they could lose their jobs if they complain.

Pam and Chrstine Kearse, chairman of Cumbria Pride, told the task group that the county is “very behind the times” in terms of promoting equality and diversity.

Charities and community support groups say the majority of victims in Carlisle are “suffering in silence”, and a recent university study revealed that less than 19 per cent reported crimes to police.

The task group is calling on Carlisle City Council to join police in prioritising and raising awareness of hate crime and how and where it should be reported.

Liz Mallinson, group chairman, said: “Hate crime is on the increase, not only in Carlisle but everywhere.

“It is very worrying and these figures [in the report] are just the tip of the iceberg – we can’t sweep it under the carpet any more.”

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