Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Ged Doherty

What is the nature and extent of mate crime offending against disabled people and how effective are institutional responses?

Photo of Ged Doherty

Recently identified, mate crime is considered to be a form of hate crime where friendship and familiarity are used to facilitate offending. It has been linked to a breadth of offences including homicides and sexual offences as well as acquisitive crimes.

Although a disputed phenomenon, mate crime has been conceptualised as a form of hate crime which is perpetrated predominantly against disabled people, particularly those with learning disabilities. This project seeks to explore the nature of mate crime and will attempt to establish how often the authorities are called upon to deal with it. The research will also examine the effectiveness of the responses of organisations such as the police and safeguarding services and consider whether these could improve.

This study will adopt a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods. In an attempt to understand the breadth of this type of crime, a case study will be conducted within one police area which will involve an analysis of a sample of recorded incidents involving disabled victims. This will then be followed by a series of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders involved in responding to these types of crimes (police, safeguarding staff, etc).

In addition to the above, a survey will be conducted of police forces in England & Wales with a view to assessing the extent of mate crime offending. Following on from Doherty's (2013) analysis of a small number of murders which were linked to mate crime, the current research will also seek to establish whether there are any other homicides which might be construed as mate crimes.

Results will be discussed within the context of previous research, particularly that relating to hate crime and disability. It is hope that the proposed research will have implications for policy-makers and practitioners in the fields of criminal justice, health and social work.


Ged secured his first degree in psychology at Lancaster University in 1978 and then obtained a post-graduate teaching qualification before commencing training as a police officer in 1979. Ged spent several years of his later police service as a Detective Inspector managing a specialist police safeguarding team involved in the investigation of high-risk domestic violence cases, child abuse cases and crimes against disabled people. Following his retirement from the police in 2009, he worked for over five years as a Practice Officer within a local authority Safeguarding Adults Team. During that time, he also successfully studied for his MSc in Criminology & Criminal Justice at Durham University. He was then fortunate enough to be accepted to study for his PhD at Leeds.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

After a 30 year absence from Higher Education, Ged studied part-time via the University of Central Lancashire to secure a Post-Graduate Certificate in Forensic Behavioural Psychology in June 2009. He followed this with his MSc in 2013. By this time Ged had retired from the police but remained in Safeguarding work within the local authority. As Ged explains:-

“I realised I enjoyed researching and I began to think I might be capable of doing so at a higher level. I was keen to use some of the knowledge gained through my experience of policing and safeguarding work to try and improve things”.  

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Ged was brought up on a council estate on the edge of a city in the north of England.

“My father was from a rural background, having lived and worked on the family farm in Ireland before coming to England, where he met my mother. I was fortunate to grow up happily with my seven brothers and sisters, and to receive a good education. As I was growing up, I became aware that there were others who were not so fortunate and who struggled to protect themselves from people who might seek to exploit and take advantage of them. This awareness became part of my motivation to pursue a career in the police service, where eventually I sought to specialize in Safeguarding”.

“A developing interest in forensic psychology and criminology then led me to my current study of mate crime. I thought this was an under-explored area in which my research might produce some real positive benefits.”    

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

Ged has stated that he has high hopes that his research into mate crime may influence future policy approaches towards this type of crime.

For those who would like to gain an early insight into Ged’s observations on mate crime, a published version of his award-winning Masters dissertation ‘Does familiarity breed contempt? A conceptual and theoretical analysis of mate crime’, can be downloaded free of charge via the web-site of the Howard League for Penal Reform


Alternatively, a more recently published article, 

Doherty, G. 2015. Do mates hate? A framing of the theoretical position of mate crime and an assessment of its practical impact. The Journal of Adult Protection [online]. 17(5), pp.296–307, can be found at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/10.1108/JAP-12-2014-0041.

© Copyright Leeds 2018