Documentary to turn spotlight on ‘mate crime’

Coun Moira Smith joins students from University of Sunderland as they put the finishing touches to their mate crime films, alongside South Tyneside Council's Graeme Littlewood and Russ Saunders.
Coun Moira Smith joins students from University of Sunderland as they put the finishing touches to their mate crime films, alongside South Tyneside Council's Graeme Littlewood and Russ Saunders.

A hard-hitting new film and web resource is to help protect people with learning disabilities from a disturbing crime has been developed on South Tyneside.

The borough council has been working with the University of Sunderland to capture the impact of so-called ‘mate crime’.

The film will be showcased at a regional #WhoRYa conference taking place later this month.

Mate crime refers to people befriending those with learning disabilities before going on to abuse or exploit the relationship. This could range from a family member taking money or a ‘friend’ holding regular gatherings at their victim’s home, to the committing of more serious crimes such as threatening or violent behaviour or even worse.

The documentary – Tale of Two Cities – highlights the high-profile murder cases of Lee Irving, of Newcastle, and Brent Martin, of Sunderland. The film has been created by the university’s final year media and film production students.

Coun Moira Smith, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, said: “This project highlights a crime which is likely to happen more often if we don’t act now.

This project highlights a crime which is likely to happen more often if we don’t act now.

Coun Moira Smith

“With advancements in technology giving people with learning disabilities greater independence, this also comes with risk, and it is highly distressing that there are cruel people in this world who will take advantage of this, abusing the trust of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“Through this project the council and its partners want to mobilise whole communities to recognise mate crime and help stop it. We must all do what we can to protect those at risk.

“To have the university students on board has been wonderful. They have shown great passion in supporting us to raise awareness of mate crime and give people with learning disabilities, and agency professionals, the tools to help protect themselves and others from this cruel and disturbing type of crime.

“Their film is both moving and thought-provoking.”

The film illustrates the challenges faced by vulnerable people and the work being undertaken by South Tyneside Council and its partners to tackle this problem.

A further video at the conference gives an insight into the #WhoRYa project, with footage from South Tyneside Ability Football Club. Professional footballers Shay Given, Steve Harper and Julio Arca feature, lending their support.