EU nationals stance not to blame for hate crime surge - Amber Rudd
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has insisted the Government's stance on the status of EU nationals living in the UK has not helped drive a surge in hate crime following the referendum.
Reports of incidents and crimes jumped sharply in the weeks before and after the poll on June 23, sparking fears of a wave of racial and xenophobic abuse.
On Tuesday Ms Rudd launched a new action plan to tackle the issue which includes an assessment of the police response by watchdogs.
Since the Brexit vote, ministers have faced pressure to provide a firm guarantee about the status of EU citizens already in the country ahead of negotiations with Brussels, which will also cover the rights of Britons living in other member states in the bloc.
Ms Rudd was asked whether the Government's negotiating position was encouraging insults such as people being told to "go home".
She said: "I don't think so, no. The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that there is no change in the EU nationals' position.
"There's going to be a complicated negotiation ... but the position for EU nationals now is unchanged.
"We hope they will be able to stay and continue to make a contribution to life in the UK."
Ms Rudd said there had been a "spike" in hate crime since the referendum but added: "I can reassure people it has started to come off since then."
She said there are "no reasons ever" for hate crime.
"There is always going to be a small minority of people who use some sort of event to vent the hate they already feel," Ms Rudd said.
"The vast majority of people who voted in this referendum want nothing to do with that sort of hate."
She described the offences as a "really nasty sort of crime" adding: "The message is that hate crime is unacceptable in this country."
Under the new drive Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary will carry out a "scoping study" into police forces' understanding of and response to hate crime.
Levels of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist bullying in schools will also be examined and a new programme launched to equip teachers to facilitate conversations around international events and the impact they have on communities in the UK.
Police figures indicated that young people were the victims of 10% of faith hate crime and 8% of race hate crime for the three-week period between June 16 and July 7.
The action plan contains measures aimed at increasing reporting of incidents, as well as work to prevent offences on public transport.
Prosecutors will be urged to press for tougher sentences for perpetrators, while a £2.4 million fund will be set up for security measures and equipment at places of worship such as mosques and churches that need increased protection.
Representatives of religious communities have raised concerns about crimes ranging from graffiti to arson.
Figures released on Friday showed more than 6,000 alleged hate crimes and incidents were reported to police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in four weeks from the middle of last month.
The daily rate peaked at 289 reports on June 25 - the day after the referendum result was announced.
The main type of offence reported was "violence against the person", which includes harassment and common assault as well as verbal abuse, spitting and "barging".
Public order offences and criminal damage were the second and third most common incidents respectively.