Hate crime reaches record levels after EU referendum

Credit: PA

Record levels of hate crime were reported in the aftermath of last year's EU referendum, according to new research.

Three-quarters of police forces in England and Wales recorded their highest number of hate crimes in the three months after June's Brexit vote since records began in April 2012.

In some areas the number of incidents jumped by more than 50%.

A human rights organisation has said the country should prepare for the possibility of further spikes in offences once the Brexit process has begun.

In the three months ending September 2016 three forces - Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester, and West Yorkshire - recorded over 1,000 hate crimes each.

Only four forces reported a decrease on the previous three months, according to the figures compiled by the Press Association.

Charities are calling for more to be done to tackle hate crime. Credit: ITV News Central / Charlotte Cross

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the findings suggested a small number of people used the Brexit vote "to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice".

The charity Victim Support said that more needed to be done to encourage victims to come forward.

Provisional figures on hate crimes published by the Home Office in October 2016 suggested that offences in July 2016 were 41% higher than in July 2015.

Regions with biggest rises:

  • Dorset (up 100%)

  • Nottinghamshire (up 75%)

  • North Yorkshire (up 68%)

  • West Mercia (up 64%)

  • Devon and Cornwall (up 63%)

  • Leicestershire (up 60%)

  • Kent (up 60%)

  • Lincolnshire (up 59%)

  • Humberside (up 57%)

  • Dyfed-Powys (up 52%)

David Isaac, chairman of the EHRC, said it "must be sensible to prepare for any possible spikes" in hate crime once Brexit negotiations begin.

"The vast majority of people who voted to leave the European Union did so because they believed it was best for Britain and not because they are intolerant of others," he said.

"It is clear, however, that a small minority of people used the Brexit vote to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice. We cannot allow such intolerable acts of hate to be condoned or repeated.

"The triggering of Article 50 is the next major milestone and we must do all we can to discourage hate attacks and to support people who feel at risk."

Three-quarters of police forces in England and Wales recorded their highest number of hate crimes since records began. Credit: PA

Lucy Hastings, director at Victim Support, said the charity supported 16,000 victims of hate crime in England and Wales last year.

She confirmed a spike in referrals immediately after the referendum.

"We believe that more needs to be done to further encourage reporting. This includes making third-party hate crime units more accessible to the public."

The Home Office said Britain had some of the strongest legislation on hate crime anywhere in the world.

"The Home Secretary has been crystal clear that crime motivated by hostility and prejudice towards any group in society has no place whatsoever in a Britain that works for everyone," a spokesman said.