The number of hate crimes reported to Derbyshire police increased in the year following the Brexit vote, we can reveal.
A Freedom of Information request by this newspaper to Derbyshire Constabulary found that there was 678 hate crimes reported from the day the UK voted to leave the European Union (June 23, 2016) and June 22, 2017, compared with 563 in the previous year between June 23, 2015 and June 22, 2016.
A breakdown of the 2016-2017 figures show there were 489 racial crimes, 35 religion/faith, 38 disability, 74 sexual orientation, 14 transgender, three alternative and 25 others.
In the year before the Brexit vote, there was 475 racial, 14 religion/faith, 17 disability, 46 sexual orientation, five transgender and six others.
Nationally, Home Office statistics show a rise in hate crimes by 29 per cent across England and Wales - with 80,393 offences in 2016-2017 compared to 62,518 in 2015-2016 - the largest increase since the Home Office began recording figures in 2011-12.
Explaining the reason for the rise locally, Assistant Chief Constable, Bill McWilliam, of Derbyshire police, said: “While we do not want anyone to be a victim of hate crime, we are pleased with the rise in reported incidents because it shows that more people understand what constitutes a hate crime and feel confident enough to come forward. On average, just over one hate crime is reported to us each day.
“We recently supported the Police and Crime Commissioner’s successful Step Up, Beat Hate campaign, which sought to raise awareness of hate crime, victim services, and reporting methods. This may in part have contributed to the rise.”
Hate crimes are defined as subjecting people to harassment, victimisation, intimidation or abuse because of their race, faith, religion, disability or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Leaders across Derbyshire are encouraging victims of hate crime to report incidents to the police.
Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa, said: “Hate crime is a hidden problem and I believe that the cases reported are just the tip of the iceberg.
“Naturally I am pleased to see more people having the confidence to come forward and report incidents of hate crime, but there is still more to do.
“I know a bit about hate crime from personal experience and understand the impact it can have on people’s lives.
“As Britain’s first and only BME Commissioner I want to make Derbyshire a place where acceptance, tolerance and respect are the norm and where more victims of hate crime seek the help they need to recover from their experience.
“There is no place for bigotry, bias and prejudice in Derbyshire and I urge people not to suffer in silence, but to report any instance of hate crime so that we can gauge the full extent of the problem and invest appropriate resources.”
While Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “Hate crimes have often gone unreported and need to be brought to light so we can tackle this as a society and communities.
“Hate crime can have a devastating impact on victims and their families. Nobody should be persecuted because of their age, religion, race, sexuality or country of origin. These crimes can cause people to feel unwelcome in their communities and cause severe anxiety and long-standing emotional damage. I would encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses hate crimes to report them to the police so that we can ensure action is taken and hopefully reduce the number of incidents.”
He added: “I often see comments online that perpetrators may think are simply banter or candid abuse, but could be considered a hate crime. In the wake of the EU referendum and the Manchester terror attack, there was many retaliatory comments made in public and online that constituted hate speech. Whilst I understand why emotions run high when despicable acts occur, I would urge everyone to be mindful of their comments and actions, and be more instinctively generous and tolerant of others.”
Belper MP Pauline Latham said: “Hate crimes, be they racist or prompted by a victim’s sexuality, are abhorrent.
“Those who believe Brexit gives them carte blanche to commit crimes against individuals are not only wrong, they are warped.
“Brexit is not about discriminating against our fellow human beings. It is about establishing the best possible deal for the UK citizens, whatever their ethnic background, and giving us greater not fewer freedoms.
“Of course, I would encourage anyone who has been subject to hate crime to report it to the police and would hope the authorities would come down on those responsible with all the power they can muster.”
Ilkeston MP Maggie Throup said: “It is important for all crime to be reported and for it to be recorded in a recognised manner in order for appropriate resources to be allocated so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
“No one should suffer hate crime and there is no place for it in our society.”
And Daniel Botham, chairman of Chesterfield Interfaith Forum, said: “I think it is important not to stoke the flames of hatred, and I don’t think it’s possible to blame any increase in hate crime solely on Brexit.
“The reporting of hate crimes is getting better, but some individuals are still reluctant to go to the police, and it is estimated that 75 per cent of hate crime goes unreported.
“I don’t know how much of an impact Brexit has made locally, but sadly many in our community have to deal with being a target for abuse on a regular basis. In the Muslim community, women seem to be targeted more than the men, this may be because they are easier to identify because of their hijab, or because they’re seen as a soft target.
“We believe that it is important for us all to come together to challenge intolerance, and report any incidents of hate crime. Anyone can be the victim of a hate crime, and a victim does not have to be a member of the group at which the hostility is directed. We believe that all Individuals should have the right to live their lives free from fear and not be targeted because of their identities.”
More information on how to report a hate crime can be found at: http://www.derbyshire.police.uk/Contact-Us/Signposting/Hate-Crime/What-is-Hate-Crime.aspx