Figures show large rise in number of hate crimes

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More than 50,000 hate crimes were reported across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year, figures showed today.

These included more than 43,000 race-related crimes and almost 5,000 incidents motivated by whether a person was straight, gay or bisexual, the police service figures showed.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the figures, published for the first time today, showed a more than 12% rise in hate crimes from 46,300 in 2008.

Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Stephen Otter, the Acpo lead for equality, diversity and human rights, said he hoped publishing the figures would "encourage victims and witnesses to come forward".

"Hate crimes cause a great deal of harm among victims and communities," he said.

"Against the 2008 benchmark year we believe the 2009 data shows an increase in all five classifications of hate crime.

"Whilst we want to reduce the incidence of these crimes, it is vital that we close the gap of under-reporting.

"Only by increasing reporting can we gain a full understanding of the extent of hate crime and it is for this reason that I urge victims and witnesses to continue to come forward."

The latest figures showed there were 43,426 race-related hate crimes last year, 4,805 motivated by sexual orientation, 2,083 crimes by religion or faith, 1,402 by disability and 312 by transgender issues.

Figures for 2008 showed 39,300 race-related crimes, 4,300 motivated by sexual orientation, 1,700 by religion or faith 1,700, 800 by disability and 300 by transgender issues, but figures between January and March 2008 for disability and transgender-motivated hate crimes were based on estimates.

Professor John Grieve, chairman of the Government's hate crime advisory group, said the publication of the figures "represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime".

"The UK is amongst world leaders in the way that it responds to hate crime, but there is still much work to do," he said.

"One of the greatest challenges is to reduce the under-reporting of hate crime."

Britain's largest force, the Metropolitan Police, emerged as the hate crime capital of the UK last year, with 11,658 crimes - more than a fifth of all hate crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Almost 9,400 of these were race-related and more than 1,300 were over sexual orientation.

Greater Manchester Police, the force with the second highest number of hate crimes, recorded 5,348 last year, followed by West Midlands Police with 2,992.