Racially aggravated attacks registered a spike in hate crimes recorded in England and Wales in 2019-2020 even as religious hate crimes showed a downward trend, according to official UK Home Office statistics released on Tuesday. There were 105,090 hate crimes recorded in the past year, which marks an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year, with race hate crimes rising by around 4,000.
“As in previous years, the majority of hate crimes were race hate crimes, accounting for around three-quarters of offences (72 per cent or 76,070 offences). These increased by 6 per cent between 2018/19 and 2019/20,” notes the Home Office report. “Religious hate crimes fell by five per cent (to 6,822 offences), down from a peak of 7,203 in the previous year. This was the first fall in religious hate crimes since 2012-13,” it said.
In 2019-20, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, 50 per cent of religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims (3,089 offences), with the next most commonly targeted group being Jewish people, who were targeted in 19 per cent of religious hate crimes (1,205 offences). Sikh Federation UK claimed that while reported religious hate crimes in the last 12 months fell for other religions, for Sikhs it has increased by 7.3 per cent, and related it to raised awareness within the Sikh community of the importance of reporting hate crimes.
The Home Office analysis also shows that racially aggravated hate crime jumped significantly during the Black Lives Matter protests. During the coronavirus lockdown in March, April and early May hate crime offences showed a drop, but in June and July the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences was up a third on the previous year. “The increases were seen in June and July 2020 were likely to be related to the Black Lives Matters protests and far-right groups counter-protests in England and Wales following the death of George Floyd on the 25 May in the United States of America,” the report said.
Statistics show a sharp increase in offences of causing fear, alarm or distress, which commonly arise out of demonstrations. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation increased by the largest percentage, by 19 per cent to 15,800, followed by transgender identity by 16 per cent to 2,500. Around half of hate crimes were public order offences, such as stirring up racial hatred, threatening violence and causing harassment. More than a third were violence against the person offences and 5 per cent were criminal damage and arson.
The Home Office said increases in hate crime figures over the past five years had been mainly driven by improvements in the way police record hate crime but also highlighted that spikes in such incidents do occur following certain events, such as the Brexit referendum in 2016 and terrorist attacks..