Hate crime surge after Brexit vote

Police officers
Police officers

Greater Manchester was one of three police force areas to record more than 1,000 post-Brexit hate crime incidents, new analysis reveals.

Three quarters of forces in England and Wales saw record levels in the three months ending September 2016.

Hate crime is unjustified against any minority group. We should aim at increasing tolerance across Britain

Coun Nazia Rehman

The surge, following the UK’s historic vote to leave the European Union in June, prompted an impassioned debut speech by newly elected Wigan councillor Nazia Rehman.

Across the country, 33 out of 44 forces recorded the highest quarterly number of hate crimes since comparable records began in April 2012.

And three forces each recorded more than 1,000 hate crimes: the Met (3,356), GMP (1,033) and West Yorks (1,013).

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”, while Victim Support said 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 offences in July 2016 were 41 per cent higher than in July 2015.

However, Ukip leader Paul Nuttall dismissed evidence of a hate crime spike in the wake of the referendum, saying it followed a pattern seen after other major national events. “A lot of that rise is fabricated,” he told The Independent, although he admitted some incidents had taken place.

He said: “Of course there will be individual instances and people should never be victims of hate crime at all. My heart goes out to those people who have been victims, but I think a lot of this has been overblown specifically to try to rubbish Brexit.”

EHRC chairman David Isaac said: “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.”

Speaking during her debut speech to full council last year, Labour Tyldesley ward representative Coun Nazia Rehman said the borough should “refresh” its approach to promoting itself as a “compassionate and tolerant place”.

And Wigan Council promptly launched its Believe I’m Only Human campaign to encourage tolerance and togetherness.

Coun Rehman told the Wigan Post last year: “Hate crime is unjustified against any minority group - not just black, minority, ethic citizens. So rather than just concentrating on monthly figures which are clearly variable, we should aim at increasing tolerance across Britain.

“Another factor that is very critical and should not be overlooked is the under-reporting of hate crimes.

“Although obvious divisions exist in our society, the way immigration and race was used to campaign for Brexit has worsened the situation. We need a continued effort and focus on hate crimes against anyone on any ground.

“It’s not the responsibility of only police but everyone in the society to discourage prejudice and intolerance.”