Hate crimes: More reports but fewer prosecutions

There were fewer people prosecuted for committing hate crimes last year despite a sharp rise in reported incidents following the EU referendum.

The figures reveal a total of 14,480 people were prosecuted for hate crimes in 2016-17 in England and Wales compared to 15,442 convictions completed in the previous year.

Authorities could face fresh scrutiny of how they deal with complaints following the 6.2% drop in prosecutions – about a thousand fewer.

The data on hate crime convictions covers offences perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.

Figures on the number of hate crime offences recorded by police for the full 12 months have not yet been published.

But statistics released last year showed a sharp rise in racially or religiously aggravated offences reported to officers following the EU referendum in June.

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

This rise followed a 9.6% drop in referrals from 2014-15 to 2015-16.

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.”

The number of reports also appeared to spike following the terror attacks that took place in the UK this year.

The report also revealed how sentences for hate crimes were “uplifted” after 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.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, welcomed the “tougher” sentences but branded the fall in hate crime prosecutions “troubling”.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world to tackle it.

“We are clear that the cowards who commit these hateful attacks should feel the full force of the law.”