Hate crimes in Hampshire up 28%: Is Brexit to blame?

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New figures have revealed there was a 28% increase of hate crimes in Hampshire in June compared to the same time last year. Is Brexit to blame, or were we like this all along? Alice Cooke asks

The statistics were obtained following a Freedom of Information request by social housing association Viridian Housing. They show that there were 219 hate crimes reported to Hampshire Constabulary in June of this year, which compared to 171 in the same month last year, an increase of 28 per cent.

Nationally, as widely reported by the national press, there was a spike in racist incidents following the EU referendum vote on 23 June.

In the wake of Brexit, Hampshire community leaders and MPs appealed for calm and tolerance after reports of racist abuse. Police figures did not show a spike in overall hate crimes immediately after the referendum, but up to a dozen residents from Southampton’s Asian and Polish communities reported being abused in the days after the result, and BBC journalist Sima Kotecha said she was verbally abused in her hometown of Basingstoke.

The newly-obtained figures show race specific hate crimes were up 25.8 per cent, from 124 in June last year to 156 in June 2016. More than 3,000 hate crimes and incidents were reported to police across the UK in the second half of June, which represents a jump of 42% compared to last year, according to data published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The daily rate peaked at 289 alleged offences, the day after the result of the EU referendum was announced.

The only figure that showed a decrease this year was disability, but the number of transgender hate crimes and faith hate crimes has doubled compared to last year’s figures. Are we in Hampshire suddenly less tolerant? Less friendly? And if we are, then why have we become like this? Are we all bigots and racists, in denial about it and pretending to be good people? What can we as a county do to stem this abhorrent flow of hate? …I am going to take a hopefully-not-very-rash leap of faith and say that most Hampshire folk think behaviour like this is utterly abhorrent.

In July a 12-year-old boy right here in our region had a rock thrown at his head when he was walking home from school, because he is transgender. The incident resulted in the attacker receiving a six-month referral order, a type of supervision order, after he admitted pleading guilty to a charge of actual bodily harm. That cannot be blamed on Brexit, so what’s changed? And what on earth shall we do about it?

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Cases of local hate crimes taken to court increased by nine per cent during 2015 to 16, with the Wessex region seeing 56 more cases prosecuted. Convictions in Wessex increased by 2.8 per cent compared to the previous year. In addition, Wessex saw the highest percentage of increases to sentences to reflect the hostility element of the offending.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has unveiled an action plan to tackle hate crime nationally, which includes an assessment of how police respond to the issue. When questioned, a spokesman from Hampshire Constabulary told Hampshire Life: “We will continue to be visible and accessible so that if someone feels that they have been a victim of a hate crime they know they can talk to us. We would urge anyone who has been victim of a hate crime to contact us on 101.”This is, of course, great. But is it too little too late?


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