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Hate crime prosecutions down despite spike in incidents post-Brexit referendum

Hate crime prosecutions have fallen despite an uptick in incidents, new data shows. Photo: PA

The number of hate crimes prosecuted last year fell, despite a spike in incidents around the Brexit referendum, new data has revealed.

There were a total of 14,480 hate crime prosecutions in 2016-17, down from 15,442 the previous year.

A hate crime is an offence the victim believes is motivated by prejudice against race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

The decline in prosecutions will likely spark scrutiny of the handling of hate crimes, especially as statistics show a rise in racially or religiously motivated offences in the weeks following the June vote to leave the European Union.

Published by the Crown Prosecution Service, the annual Hate Crime Report highlights a small increase in the number of hate crimes referred by police to the CPS in 2016-17 compared with the previous year. However, the rise followed a near-10% drop in referrals from the previous year.

Anti-Semitic graffiti on a wall in Victoria, London. Credit: PA

"The drop in referrals recorded last year has impacted on the number of completed prosecutions in 2016-17 and we are working with the police at a local and national level to understand the reasons for the overall fall in referrals in the past two years," Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said.

Hate incidents also spike after terror attacks, the report revealed.

The CPS figures show:

  • Hate crime convictions are down by 6% in 2016-17.
  • The majority of hate crime prosecutions (89.2%) are for racially and religiously aggravated offences.
  • Prosecutions for disability hate crime were at a record level of 1,009.
  • Prosecutions for homophobic and transphobic hate crime remained steady at a combined total of 1,467.

The report also said courts are increasing sentences for hate crime prosecutions.

Saunders said: "Crimes motivated by hate have a corrosive effect on society and it is pleasing to see the courts are using their powers to increase sentences in the majority of cases for the first time."

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "It is welcome that hate crime is being met with tougher sentences.

"But it is very troubling that prosecutions are falling even though reported hate crime is going up."