Reported hate crime surges by almost a fifth
Hate crime reported to police has jumped by almost a fifth, new figures reveal.
Forces in England and Wales recorded 52,528 of the offences in 2014/15 - an increase of 18% compared to the previous year.
M ore than 80% were classed as race hate crimes, with others involving religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender victims, Home Office data showed.
David Cameron, who has announced anti-Muslim offences will be recorded as a separate category for the first time, described the findings as "unacceptable".
Analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) published alongside the new figures indicated that Muslims are more likely than people from other faith groups to be targeted in religiously-motivated crimes.
Overall data from the survey between 2012/13 to 2014/15 suggests there were an estimated 222,000 hate crimes on average per year. The figure is higher because it includes incidents that are not reported by victims.
The rising volume of cases recorded by police follows a trend seen in 2013/14, when offences involving religious hatred soared in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.
A report published alongside the latest figures pointed to improved recording of crime over the last year.
"Together with a greater awareness of hate crime, and improved willingness of victims to come forward, this is likely to be a factor in the increase in hate crimes recorded by the police in 2014/15 compared with the previous year," it said.
Statisticians found that, contrary to reports, there was no "clear spike" in offences around the times of the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham in August last year, or the Charlie Hebdo terrorist shooting in Paris in January.
A hate crime is defined as "any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic".
There were increases in reported offences for all five of the monitored hate crime strands between 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Police recorded 42,930 race hate crimes - an increase of 15% on the previous year.
Offences linked to victims' religion increased by 43% on 2013/14 to 3,254, while the number has more than doubled in the last three years.
Hate crimes involving sexual orientation (5,597), disability (2,508) and transgender identity (605) saw annual rises of 22%, 25% and 9% respectively.
An analysis of hate crimes logged by 22 police forces found that 59% were public order offences while three in 10 involved violence, of which 30% led to injury.
Despite the rise in offences recorded by police, the crime survey shows a "statistically significant" fall of 28% between 2007-09 and 2012-15.
Karen Bradley, minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, described hate crimes as "absolutely abhorrent".
She added: "The increase in recorded hate crime shows that more victims have the confidence to come forward and that the police are improving the way they identify and record hate crimes. We welcome this."
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for hate crime, said police are "working hard to reduce its impact".
Lucy Hastings, director of the charity Victim Support, said: "Hate crime is malicious and often violent, targeting victims simply for being who they are."
Steve White, chair of Police Federation of England and Wales, said the rise in recorded hate crimes " can be read as a worrying trend or a positive sign that victims feel more confident in coming forward".
He added: "Bald statistics can never tell the whole story, but regardless of why the figures are up, if we have more reports of hate crime, we need more resources to investigate and stop it."
Ian Johnston, hate crime lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said: " Everyone in our communities should be safe from crimes that are due to differences of race, religion or sexuality."