The number of hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales has hit its highest level on record, with a 12% rise in racially motivated incidents, official figures show.
There were 124,091 hate crimes recorded in the year to March 2021, according to Home Office statistics.
This comprises 92,052 race hate crimes, 6,377 religious hate crimes, 18,596 sexual-orientation hate crimes, 9,943 disability hate crimes and 2,799 transgender hate crimes.
Some crimes fall into more than one of these categories.
Numbers have risen each year since records began in 2011-12.
The Home Office said the rises have been driven by improvements in recording, growing awareness and a better identification of what constitutes a hate crime.
Excluding the 2021 figures from Greater Manchester Police, which was unable to provide data for the year to March 2020 as a comparison, there were 114,958 hate crimes recorded in the year to March 2021 – an annual rise of 9%.
Around three-quarters of these crimes – 85,268 offences – were racially motivated, an annual rise of 12% or more than 9,000 more incidents.
Disability related hate crimes rose by 9%, sexual orientation-related hate crimes by 7%, while transgender identity-related hate crimes were up 3%.
The Home Office said those last three percentage changes were lower than seen in recent years,
Hate crimes linked to religion were down 18% compared to the previous year – the second annual fall in a row.
More than half (52%) of the crimes recorded were for public order offences.
The Home Office said there was an increase in public order hate crimes during the summer of 2020 following the Black Lives Matter protests and far-right counter-protests.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive at independent charity Victim Support, said: “At Victim Support, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of people coming to us for support as a result of hate crime and it’s incredibly concerning to see a significant increase across the country.
“We do recognise that the observed increase may be the result of the easing of lockdown restrictions, which has made it easier for more victims to come forward, and people feeling more confident in reporting incidences which is positive.
“However, it’s appalling that we continue to see race-related hate crime remaining at high levels, and we strongly condemn all types of racist abuse.
“It’s also worrying that there are more victims seeking support for disability, homophobic and transgender identity-related hate crimes, which we know can have a damaging effect on a victim’s sense of safety, well-being and self-worth.”
Chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Butt, said: “The latest hate crime figures paint a bleak picture for equality in the UK.
“The fact that almost three quarters of hate crimes were racially motivated shows just how far is left to go towards building a society that is truly tolerant and anti-racist.
“While some of the 9% overall increase in hate crime can be attributed to improvements in crime recording, it is all too clear that too many people still face horrific attacks simply on the basis of who they are.
“The Government’s Hate Crime Action Plan has clearly fallen short and needs to be revisited as a matter of urgency.”
Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall, said many hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community go unreported.
He said: “All lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people deserve to live our lives free from fear, and these figures must be a wake-up call for addressing LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
“From ensuring that LGBTQ+ hate crimes are properly recorded and prosecuted within the criminal justice system, to training police forces to understand LGBTQ+ hate crime and support LGBTQ+ victims and survivors, it’s vital that we all do more to tackle violence and hate directed at LGBTQ+ people.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable. The cowards who commit them should feel the full force of the law.
“Whilst the biggest driver for the increase in recorded crime is general improvements in police recording, along with increased victim willingness to come forward, we cannot be complacent. That is why we have committed to publishing a new Hate Crime Strategy later this year.”