Comments like Brexiteer Boris Johnson’s letterbox remarks have fuelled hate crime, a Labour MP said today as it emerged it rose by nearly a fifth last year.
David Lammy said politicians like the former foreign secretary must take responsibility for their language as police figures revealed there were 94,098 hate crime offences in total in England and Wales in 2017/18, an increase of 17% on the previous year.
This included 71,251 classed as race hate crimes; 11,638 (12%) offences triggered by sexual orientation; 8,336 (9%) where religion was a factor; 7,226 (8%) motivated because of someone’s disability; and 1,651 (2%) were transgender hate crimes.
Some offences are classed more than once because they have more than one motivation.
Data from the Home Office shows that the sharpest rise was in religious hate crime, which rose by 40% from 5,949 in 2016/17.
The anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain said that “comments like Brexiteer Boris Johnson’s letterbox comments have fuelled hate crime”.
Lammy, a champion of the group, said: “The extent to which hate crimes have risen in recent years is shameful. It comes from the very top. Divisive, xenophobic rhetoric from politicians and leaders trickles down into abuse and violence on our streets. “It is no surprise that Islamophobic attacks on Muslim women who wear veils rose in the days following Boris Johnson’s ‘letterbox’ insult.
“Similarly, it is no coincidence that the type of anti-immigrant language used by some mainstream politicians has corresponded with spikes in hate crimes.”
The number of offences recorded as transgender hate crimes went up by 32% from 1,248, disability rose by 30% from 5,558, and sexual orientation increased by 27% from 9,157.
The number of hate crimes according to police figures has more than doubled since 2012/13 from 42,255 to 94,098.
This is partly because of improvements in the way crimes are recorded but there have been spikes after events such as the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks last year.
The Home Office report said: “These large percentage increases across all three strands may suggest that increases are due to the improvements made by the police into their identification and recording of hate crime offences and more people coming forward to report these crimes rather than a genuine increase.”
Findings from the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales, which tracks the public’s experience of crime, suggest a drop of 40% in hate crime incidents in the past decade.
The police figures showed that more than half (56%) of the hate crimes recorded were for public order offences and a further third (33%) were for crimes involving violence against the person.
In the year ending March 2018 there were 1,065 online hate crimes.
Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.
Five strands are monitored centrally: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity.
Some forces log other types of hostility under the hate crime heading, including reports of misogyny and incidents where victims were targeted because of their age or membership of an “alternative sub-culture”, such as goths.
Despite the increase in recorded crime, the number of completed prosecutions fell from 14,480 in 2016/17 to 14,151 in 2017/18 – a drop of 329 or 2.3%.
The Crown Prosecution Service said the conviction rate in hate crime cases was 84.7%, up from 83.4% the previous year.
It also said tougher sentences were handed down in two-thirds of cases after prosecutors highlighted aggravating factors to judges.
Ahead of the statistics, the government published a refreshed strategy for tackling hate crime.
The Law Commission will carry out a review to explore how to make current legislation more effective and consider if there should be additional “protected characteristics” to cover offences motivated by, or demonstrating, hatred based on sex and gender characteristics, or hatred of older people.
In another step outlined in the blueprint, taxi drivers and door staff will be given guidance on spotting hate crime.
Earlier this year, a watchdog report warned that police must address shortcomings in their response ahead of a possible post-Brexit surge in reports.
Alex Mayes, of charity Victim Support, said: “It’s startling to see the number of hate crimes reported more than double in the last five years, although this rise does reflect a greater awareness around hate crime and an improved police response.
“Despite these rises, hate crime remains hugely under-reported.”