Huge rise in hate crime across London, new figures reveal

Exclusive: Charities warn ‘toxic language’ of Brexit debate is to blame for increases as high as 216 per cent

Becca Meier
Tuesday 07 March 2017 13:24 GMT
Charities say rise in hate crime is undeniably linked to 'racially charged and demonising' Brexit debate
Charities say rise in hate crime is undeniably linked to 'racially charged and demonising' Brexit debate

Charities have expressed alarm at “deeply worrying” new police figures showing a considerable rise in hate-related crime in London over the last year, saying the EU referendum “undeniably” played a role.

The Metropolitan Police statistics reveal an increase in almost all forms of hate-related crime, including incidents linked to disability, racial and homophobic motives, The Independent can reveal.

Numbers of disability hate victims have increased by 216 per cent in the last year alone, up from 251 in 2015-16 to 794 in 2016-17.

The number of victims of religious and racist hate crime has risen almost 20 per cent, from 14,004 to 16,618, and victims of faith hate have seen an 18 per cent increase from 1,699 to 2,000 within the same time period, when the issue of Brexit dominated national debate.

The figures also show homophobic incidents have increased by 12 per cent, from 1,816 to 2,033.

Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, told The Independent: “If accurate, these figures are deeply worrying, and they bear out our initial concerns that divisive political campaigning last summer gave licence to the expression of discriminatory views in a way we haven’t seen for decades.

“We had witnessed negative and sometimes toxic language being used in debates on refugees and migrant rights. The London Mayor election and the EU referendum brought some of this to the surface, but there has been an insidious narrative developing for much longer.

“The election of Donald Trump in America, following a campaign built on divisive and sometimes poisonous rhetoric, means we’re extremely concerned about the corrosive nature of political debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

“There needs to be a much stronger message from all quarters of the political establishment that racially charged and demonising language is totally unacceptable in modern Britain.”

Mike Ainsworth, a director at Stop Hate UK, said: “The time and the nature of these increases means that they are undeniably linked to EU referendum.

“It was the language of the Leave campaign, rather than the result, which gave licence to those with prejudiced views to commit hate crimes.

“We need very clear moral leadership from those in positions of power to stand up and say that crime is unacceptable. The Mayor of London has been exemplary in this regard so far.

“There is also a huge under-reporting of hate crimes in terms of disability, especially since the Metropolitan Police’s policy change. If a victim of a disability hate crime does not claim it is a hate crime, it goes unreported, even if it really is. Only about 3 per cent of all disability crimes are reported nationwide.”

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The figures follow a surge in 999 calls about hate crimes around the time of the EU referendum last year. The increase in calls started roughly two weeks before the vote and lasted until the end of September, according to recent figures published by the London Evening Standard.

There were 4,727 emergency calls from the second week of June to the end of September, and 540 hate crime-related calls in the fortnight leading up to the poll – up 22 per cent on the previous year, it was reported.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said the force defined a hate incident as “any incident that is perceived by the victim or any other person to be racist, homophobic, transphobic or due to a person’s religion, belief, gender identity or disability”.

“Tackling hate crimes such as racist crime, domestic violence and homophobic crime is a high priority for the Metropolitan Police,” the spokesperson said.

The rise in hate crime came as numbers of many other types of incidents fell in the same time period, including violence against women, homicide and burglary offences.

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