England and Wales have had their biggest ever year-on-year surge in hate crimes, new figures from the Home Office reveal, with recorded offences motivated by hate against minority groups rising 29% in 2016/7.
In previous years, the Home Office attributed increases in recorded hate crimes largely to better recording of such offences by the police, and better reporting of crimes, but this year has said it believes there was a genuine increase in the number of crimes in the wake of both the EU referendum vote in 2016 and terror attacks in the early months of 2017.
The statistics show police recorded 80,393 offences in which they believed hate against a minority group was "a motivating factor". UK police forms don't solely record incidents of hate as offences in themselves, but instead are also required to record when other offences – such as assault, property damage, or public disorder – are fuelled by hate, whether on the grounds of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The majority of crimes recorded, 78%, were connected to racial hatred, followed by that of sexual orientation (11%), religion (7%), disability (7%), and transgender identity (2%).
For hate crimes motivated by disability, sexual orientation, and transgender identity, the Home Office said it believed year-on-year increases mainly reflected better reporting and recording of crimes.
However, the statistical analysis revealed a likely increase in crimes based on racial and religious hatred, showing particularly large spikes in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and of terror attacks in 2017.
Significantly, these spikes in hate crimes were not matched by spikes in comparable offences at the same time – meaning the researchers concluded "that these spikes are indeed genuine increases in these aggravated offences".
This chart shows that the spikes in "aggravated offences" (or hate crimes) on the red line aren't matched by spikes in "non-aggravated offences" on the grey line, leading researchers to conclude more hate crimes occurred.
The Home Office report shows 16% – or 1 in 6 – of assaults or property damage connected to hate crime resulted in charges or court summonses, slightly higher than the 14% – 1 in 7 – resulting in charges or summonses for the equivalent offences without hate crime as an aggravating factor.
These figures show police having a broadly similar degree of success across both types of offence, but also suggest that accusations that spikes in hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum have been caused by mass reporting of non-offences, or media hysteria, are overblown. Were lots of questionable reports suddenly being made, the charge rate would be markedly lower.
Yvette Cooper, chair of the House of Commons home affairs committee, said the rise in hate crimes showed a clear need for immediate government action.
“These figures are extremely disturbing," she said. "Reported hate crimes have increased but prosecutions have fallen. The police have admitted that as well as better reporting, the number of hate crimes taking place has also gone up which means that in modern Britain more people are being victimised because of their race, religion, disability or sexuality.
"No one in our country should be attacked or abused because of who they are. ... The government need a serious plan to tackle hate crime and ensure those who commit these abhorrent crimes face the full force of the law.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey echoed this view, adding that politicians needed to be more careful how they use words.
“This disgraceful rise in hate crime demands a much stronger response from Government than we have seen," he said.
“The vile views of characters like Nigel Farage have been given too much oxygen and the prime minister’s pandering to the right wing to secure her position has been disastrous for community relations up and down our country.
“As politicians we have a duty to be responsible with our words as well as our actions and we should lead by example. Hate has no part to play in our society and these figures should act as a wake-up call.”