Terror attacks and EU referendum fuel record rise in hate crime

The number of hate crimes in England and Wales has risen by 29% to its highest level since the Home Office began categorising hate-related offences.

In 2016/17, police recorded 80,393 offences where hate was deemed to be a motivating factor, compared with 62,518 the previous year.

Racially motivated crimes accounted for the largest number of offences - 62,685 - up 27% on 2015/16.

Disability-related crime showed the highest percentage rise of all the hate crime categories - up 53% to 5,558 recorded offences.

Hate crimes are categorised as offences motivated by someone's hostility or prejudice towards an individual's personal characteristics.

The offences are broken down into five categories: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender.

All five categories have shown significant increases in the latest Home Office figures.

Reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose 27% to 9,157 recorded offences, while religiously motivated offences saw an increase of 35% to 5,157.

There was a 45% increase in reports of transgender-related hate crimes, although the number of reported transgender offences was the lowest of all the categories at 1,248 crimes.

Some of the increases can be attributed to spikes in hate crime around the EU referendum last year and the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March this year.

But the increase is also down to a greater willingness on the part of alleged victims to come forward and report offences, as well as significant improvements in the way police record hate crimes.

Reacting to the increase, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "There is absolutely no place for hate crime in our society and this Government is taking action to tackle it.

"I am heartened that more victims are more confident to come forward and report incidents of hate crime, and that police identification and recording of all crime is improving.

"But no one in Britain should have to suffer violent prejudice, and indications that there was a genuine rise in the number of offences immediately following each of this year's terror attacks is undoubtedly concerning."

The report noted four spikes in racially or religiously aggravated offences - in June 2016 and March, May and June of this year.

One of the spikes coincided with the UK voting to leave the EU, with reported hate crime offences up 44% in July 2016 compared with the same month the year before.

By August last year, the number of hate crimes reported had reduced significantly, but was still higher than in August 2015.

The other spikes in hate crime coincided with the Westminster Bridge attack, the Manchester Arena bombing and the attack at Borough Market.

The new figures come after it was revealed fewer alleged hate criminals were prosecuted last year.

In 2016/17, a total of 14,480 hate crime prosecutions were completed across England and Wales, down 6.2% from the previous year.

The Home Office said it was working to crack down on those who commit hate crimes, with extra help for some communities, including a commitment to provide an additional £2.4m to protect places of worship.

And it pointed to a £1m fund for vulnerable faith institutions and £900,000 to support community projects.

Although hate crimes have shown a significant rise over the past year, they still account for a very small proportion of overall offences - less than 2% of all reported crime in England and Wales.