Hate crime has hit a new record in England and Wales, with the number of racially motivated offences recorded by police rocketing by 4,000 in a year.
More than 105,000 hate crimes were recorded in 2019-20, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year.
A separate Home Office report on trends during the coronavirus pandemic showed that racial hate crime jumped significantly during Black Lives Matter protests.
During the lockdown in March, April and early May offences dropped, but in June and July the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences was up a third on the previous year.
The Home Office said the spike was “likely to be related to the Black Lives Matters protests and far-right groups’ counter-protests in England and Wales following the death of George Floyd on the 25 May in the United States of America”.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis while being arrested for a minor offence on 25 May.
His death sparked local protests that rapidly spread through the US and internationally, as the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrated over wider racial discrimination and injustice.
Statistics show a sharp increase in offences causing fear, alarm or distress, which commonly arise out of demonstrations.
There was no breakdown of the race of victims and perpetrators.
The Victim Support charity said it had seen “significant spikes” in hate crime victims seeking support in June and July.
Chief executive Diana Fawcett added: “Our caseworkers also report that the lockdown has been used in some instances to intimidate Bame communities with false accusations of flouting rules.
“We know that hate crime is hugely underreported because some victims worry that the incident was ‘too trivial’ to report or that it won’t be taken seriously by the police. While in one sense it is extremely concerning that racial and homophobic hate crimes in particular are on the rise, it can also be a sign that more victims are coming forward.”
Almost three-quarters of hate crimes in 2019-20 were racially motivated, and the number rose by 6 per cent to more than 76,000.
Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation increased by the largest percentage, by 19 per cent to 15,800, followed by transgender identity by 16 per cent to 2,500.
Disability hate crime rose by 9 per cent to 8,500 and religious hate crime fell by 5 per cent to 6,800.
In incidents where the victims’ religion was recorded, half were targeted against Muslims and 19 per cent against Jews.
A Home Office document said increases over the past five years had been mainly driven by improvements in the way police record hate crime.
But it added: “There has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017.”
Around half of hate crimes were public order offences, such as stirring up racial hatred, threatening violence and causing harassment.
More than a third were violence against the person offences and 5 per cent were criminal damage and arson.
Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, called the figures “deeply disturbing”.
“In the last parliament, the Home Affairs Committee heard worrying evidence about the seriousness of hate crime – online and offline – and its impact on individuals and communities,“ she added.
“There is responsibility on the government, social media companies and all of us in our communities to drive out this hatred from our society.”
The Liberal Democrats’ equalities spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, said the rise in hate crime “must be stopped and reversed”.
She added: “All of us with the privilege of a public platform – including government ministers – have a responsibility to condemn the irresponsible and divisive rhetoric that inflames hatred.”
The statistics were revealed as the Law Commission consults on proposals to bring misogyny and offences motivated by other characteristics under hate crime laws.
Baroness Williams, the minister for countering extremism, said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable.
“The government takes this issue very seriously, which is why we published the hate crime action plan which has helped improve the police response to, and public awareness of, all forms of hate crime.
“We are working with community groups, charities and schools funding projects to tackle racially and religiously motivated hatred and we have also provided £3.2m in funding to improve security at places of worship at risk from hate crime attacks for 2020-21.”