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NEW statistics this week showed a 17 per cent rise in hate crimes in England and Wales to 94,098 in the 12 months to March.
Additionally, the figures show that over a number of years we have witnessed a dramatic increase in incidents motivated by attackers’ hostility towards their race, nationality, religion or other factors, showing that hate crime has more than doubled in the last five years, with an increase of 123 per cent since 2012-13, when 42,255 hate crimes were recorded.
Specific elements of the rise in hate crime include that religious hate crime increased by 40 per cent in the last two years, totalling 9 per cent of all hate crimes.
Race was deemed to be a motivating factor in 76 per cent of recorded hate crime. Sexual orientation was a factor in 12 per cent, disability hate crimes represented 8 per cent and 2 per cent were transgender hate crimes.
The Home Office has also noted spikes in hate crime following the terrorist attacks in Westminster, London Bridge and Manchester Arena.
Hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.”
They are mainly public order offences, which include making threats, insults and provoking violence, followed by violence against the person and criminal damage, including vandalism and arson.
Part of the increase is driven by rises in both victims reporting and better police recording of hate crime, but we need to be realistic that these figures still probably underestimate the problem.
As former London Met Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said in evidence at City Hall on this matter in 2016,“We think [hate crime] is massively under-reported. Sadly, people don’t tell us about the harassment and the abuse that we know will go on out there.”
These latest figures came during National Hate Crime Awareness Week and we need to be clear that this is not inevitable and something can be done about it — we need to show leadership.
These figures are simply unacceptable and must act as an urgent wake-up call to the Tories, who promised to tackle burning injustices but are clearly not tackling the injustice of people being attacked simply because of their religion, sexuality, the colour of their skin or their disability.
Yet the Tory government has yet to offer an effective response to this problem, which has been getting worse for years.
Change and a clear lead need to come from the top to ensure that people do not feel discriminatory views are acceptable.
These figures are also without doubt a timely reminder that we need accurate and respectful discussion and politicians need to stop the “race to the bottom” when it comes to discussing migrants and immigration.
As Jeremy Corbyn said this week, “This can’t go on. We must reject the politics of division and the Tories’ toxic ‘hostile environment’.”
This an important point to make. Part of the context to this situation is that, with right-wing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate.
The “Trump factor” adds to these feelings of division and fear and the far-right is on the march both in Europe and internationally.
The government’s own policies and rhetoric over a number of years also have responsibility in this area. From “go home” vans, to demonising international students, to talking about a foreigner-free NHS this is a government whose policies have too often been contributing to a climate of hate and fear.
Labour is clear that we must stand up to hatred and discrimination wherever it is found. All politicians have a duty to make it clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society.
Additionally, it’s important to realise that, while the Tories continue to deny that cuts have consequences, the reality is that Tory cuts to the police continue to undermine the fight against crime, including against hate crime.
Whatever the spin coming from certain ministers, the reality is that the Tories continue to make police cuts.
In contrast to the Tories’ permanent austerity agenda, Labour will hire 10,000 extra police officers to work in the community to help tackle all forms of hate crime.
Additionally, for our part, Labour will stand up against scapegoating. We will stand up for both people’s rights and for a fair approach to immigration to the benefit of our economy and society.
Diane Abbott is shadow home secretary and MP for Hackney North. This column appears fortnightly.
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