Fewer hate crime prosecutions despite rise in reported incidents after EU vote

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Fewer alleged hate criminals were prosecuted last year despite a spike in reported incidents around the EU referendum, new figures reveal.

In 2016-17 a total of 14,480 hate crime prosecutions were completed across England and Wales.

This tally was down from 15,442 in the previous financial year, a fall of nearly 1,000, or 6.2%.

Data on hate crime prosecutions cover offences perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

The dip in the number of defendants pursued through courts over the year to the end of March will prompt fresh scrutiny of authorities' handling of complaints.

Figures on the number of hate crime offences recorded by police for the full 12 months have not yet been published. But specially-compiled statistics released last year revealed a sharp rise in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences logged by forces in the weeks following the referendum in June.

In a new report, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) notes that there was a small increase, of 0.7%, from 12,997 to 13,086, in the number of hate crime cases referred by police in 2016-17 compared with the previous year.

However, this slight rise followed a 9.6% drop in referrals from 2014-15 to 2015-16.

Alison Saunders
Alison Saunders (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "The drop in referrals recorded last year has impacted on the number of completed prosecutions in 2016-17 and we are working with the police at a local and national level to understand the reasons for the overall fall in referrals in the past two years."

Reports of hate incidents have also spiked around terror attacks that have hit Britain in 2017, although any impact of these rises on prosecution figures will not be clear until data for the current financial year are published.

Hate crime reports to police have generally returned to more typical levels relatively quickly after spikes around major events.

Hate crime
Figures indicate a fall in hate crime prosecutions (Yui Mok/PA)

The CPS figures show:

The number of hate crime convictions was down by 6% to 12,072 in 2016-17, although the conviction rate was up slightly to 83.4%;

The majority of hate crime prosecutions are for racially and religiously aggravated (89.2%) offences, followed by homophobic/biphobic/transphobic crimes (10.1%) and then disability crimes (7.0%);

Offences against the person and public order offences were the most common across hate crime prosecutions;

Completed prosecutions for racially and religiously aggravated hate offences were down year-on-year, from 13,032 in 2015-16 to 12,004 in 2016-17;

We support National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017. Find out more about #NHCAWhttps://t.co/k2NzTP35vB#SafePlaceForAll#hatecrimematters

-- CPS (@cpsuk) October 14, 2017

Prosecutions for disability hate crime were at a record level of 1,009, while convictions also increased;

Prosecutions for homophobic and transphobic hate crime remained broadly steady at a combined total of 1,467 in 2016-17.

The report also highlighted how sentences for hate crimes were "uplifted" following applications by prosecutors in a record 6,306 cases.

Ms Saunders said: "Crimes motivated by hate have a corrosive effect on society and it is pleasing to see the courts are using their powers to increase sentences in the majority of cases for the first time."

The latest figures on hate crimes recorded by police will be published on Tuesday.