The referendum on British membership in the European Union and several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing after a concert in Manchester, England, have helped drive hate crimes in Britain to record levels, official figures showed on Tuesday.
The Home Office said that 80,393 hate crimes were reported during the 12 months to March of this year, an increase of nearly 30 percent and the largest year-to-year rise in the five years that data has been collected. The increase was “larger than anticipated,” said Paul Iganski, a hate crimes expert and professor of criminology at Lancaster University.
The “Brexit” campaign last year to leave the European Union was supported by some right-wing and nationalist groups, and the vote gave rise to concerns that minorities and immigrants would be more vulnerable to hate crimes.
In addition, provisional data collected around the time of terrorist attacks this year in London and in Manchester, where the bombing outside the Ariana Grande concert left 22 dead, found that hate crimes soon followed the attacks.
But the rise can be attributed in part to increased public awareness and changes in the law, which broadened the definition of hate crimes to the point that almost any verbal or physical assault can be categorized as one if the victim interprets it as such.
Many of the changes stem from the racially charged murder of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black man who was stabbed while waiting for a bus in southeast London in 1993.
The authorities have also improved their capacity to record and document attacks, and victims are widely believed to feel more comfortable going to the police.
“Britain is no more or less bigoted than any other country, for example in Europe,” said Professor Iganski, adding that the increase “reflects the advances made by the criminal justice and the police” in dealing with hate crimes.
Nearly 80 percent of such crimes were based on race, according to the report. About 10 percent were based on sexual orientation and 7 percent on religion. Seven percent of hate crimes were based on a person’s disability and a further 2 percent were transgender-related hate crimes. (It is possible for a hate crime to have more than one motivating factor, the report said.)
The number of hate crimes decreased in the days after attacks in London in March, outside Parliament, and after the Manchester attack in April, but then rose again after the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in early June, and then after an attack in the Finsbury neighborhood of London later that month, the Home Office said in its report. Read more via New York Times