Race-hate crime 'increases eleven-fold in a decade'

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The shocking extent of race-hate crime in modern Britain was exposed yesterday by figures revealing an eleven-fold increase in the number of victims of racially motivated attack or abuse over the past decade.

The shocking extent of race-hate crime in modern Britain was exposed yesterday by figures revealing an eleven-fold increase in the number of victims of racially motivated attack or abuse over the past decade.

The charity Victim Support disclosed that it helped 33,374 people who believed they had been targeted because of their skin colour in the past 12 months. Ten years ago, it handled 3,072 similar complaints.

Its hate crime co-ordinators are reporting a massive surge in all types of offences. These include arson attacks on homes and places of worship, wounding and assault, verbal abuse, racist letters and leaflets through the post, harassment and bullying at work or school.

Ten per cent of the victims it counsels now have suffered racially motivated attack or abuse, compared with just 1 per cent a year ago. It admitted last night that it was struggling to deal with them and was having to divert staff to cope.

A spokesman said: "Race crime has rocketed through the roof. The rise is startling. No other crime we deal with has gone up as fast as racially motivated crime.

"There is lots of evidence that victims are very anxious about reporting it. They have to face up to the fact that they are likely to be a continuing target and a victim again."

Much of the increase is thought to have been caused by changes in crime reporting since the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence and by the growing willingness of the ethnic minorities to report offences.

But researchers also fear it could point to a rise in numbers of hate crimes as racial tensions grow. Jewish groups have warned of an increase in anti-Semitic assaults in recent years, while a commission into Islamophobia found attacks on mosques and individual Muslims had risen since the attacks of 11 September 2001. For much of the 1990s, Victim Support dealt with about 3,000 victims of race crime a year, climbing to just over 10,000 by the end of the decade.

But the charity's annual report, to be published shortly, will disclose that the number increased to 20,508 in 2000-01; 23,130 in 2001-02; it fell slightly to 20,950 in 2002-03 and then jumped to 33,374 in 2003-04.

Victim Support deals both with people referred to it by the police and those who approach it as private individuals who need counselling but do not want to involve the authorities, perhaps because of the danger of reprisals.

An analysis of race-hate crime by its branch in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, found 34 per cent of complaints were of verbal abuse, 22 per cent of assault, 12 per cent of criminal damage, 7 per cent of wounding, as well as smaller numbers of harassment and threats. Helen Whale, its branch manager, said: "These offences can have a very serious impact on people's daily lives. We are working in partnership with a lot of agencies to tackle that impact."

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "These figures are worrying and reinforce our anecdotal evidence that racially motivated crime is on the up.

They could also show that ethnic minorities are feeling more confident in coming forward to report these crimes."