Racism in the UK: tens of thousands of crimes were reported to police forces last year

Parts of the UK have seen an alarming rise in racially motivated crimes, official figures reveal.

Against a backdrop of global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement, new analysis by the JPIMedia Data Unit shows police forces across the UK are regularly dealing with racist hate crimes.

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A rise in racism

The latest Home Office figures reveal over 76,000 racist offences were committed across England and Wales in 2019/20 – the equivalent of 208 every day – with all of England and Wales’ 44 police forces seeing a rise since 2011/12.

The true number of crimes is expected to be higher as Greater Manchester Police was unable to submit its figures.

The Home Office said improvements in police recording is one of the main reasons for the increase.

But independent race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust said there is an “overwhelming existence of systemic racism present in British society”.

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West Yorkshire had the highest rate of racist offences across the two countries, with 262 per 100,000 people.

In Scotland, there were more than 3,000 charges relating to a racially aggravated crime during 2019/20, according to the latest Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) figures.

Charges were up by 4% on 2018/19’s figures, although there has been a gradual decrease since 2010/11.

In Northern Ireland there were nearly 900 racist incidents in 2019/20, almost 600 of which were officially recorded as crimes, according to data from Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

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Experts warn that many victims who experience racist abuse do not report the crime. Image: Shutterstock

The UK Government said it is working with various community groups, charities and schools to tackle racially and religiously motivated hate crime.

'Far-right, nationalism and white supremacy'

Adam Almeida, research analyst at the Runnymede Trust, said the figures do not show the full picture as some people who experience racist abuse do not report it.

“What is occurring in Britain today mirrors what is happening globally, where incidences of racist crime correlate with the rise of the far-right, nationalism and white supremacy,” Mr Almeida said.

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“We need to work to address the systemic root causes of racism that precipitates racist abuse at the individual level.”

This year has seen a number of large scale anti-racism protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement. Image: Shutterstock.

Baroness Williams, Minister for Countering Extremism, added that 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,” she said.

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“We are working with community groups, charities and schools funding projects to tackle racially and religiously motivated hatred and we have also provided £3.2 million in funding to improve security at places of worship at risk from hate crime attacks for 2020/21.”

'Victims must come forward'

Superintendent Emma Bond, Northern Ireland’s lead for hate crime, added that hate crime incidents, including racist crimes, are “significantly under reported” in the country.

Ms Bond said: “A key strand of our approach is about giving victims and witnesses the courage and confidence to come forward.

“Quite often we see that victims will wait for multiple incidents to take place before reaching out.

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"Part of our messaging is about early reporting so that we can take action at the earliest opportunity to provide support and prevent further escalation.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said it responds “robustly” to racist crimes.

“Tackling crime motivated by hatred and prejudice has never been more important, and Scotland’s prosecutors take seriously their responsibility to protect the public from such offending,” they said.

“Everyone in Scotland should be able to live without fear of being targeted because of their race and COPFS will continue to respond robustly and fairly to crimes of this nature, using all of the tools at our disposal.”