Worrying rise in hate crimes ‘fuelled by defeat at Euro 2020 final’

Racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded by police hit a fresh high in 2021, sparked by reaction to England’s defeat in the Euros.

The West Midlands was among the worst affected, with cases up by more than 50 per cent. Cases were also up by a third in West Mercia and almost a quarter in Staffordshire.

Police say cases of abuse increased after England’s penalty shoot out defeat to Italy in the final at Wembley.

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions is another factor named by forces as having led to the rise in offences, along with improved recording of hate crimes.

A total of 76,884 racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded in 2021, up 15 per cent from 66,742 in 2020.

The Metropolitan Police recorded the highest number of these offences last year, at15,394, up two per cent from 15,156 in 2020.

But the West Midlands figures are alarming because they show the biggest jump in the country. There were 8,019 reports last year, up 57 per cent on the year before.

In West Mercia there were more than 1,000 complaints, a 33 per cent increase and Staffordshire saw 992 complaints, up 24 per cent.

The number of offences has been on an upwards trend since 2013, the first calendar year for which comparable data is available. But this is the biggest percentage jump since 2017, which saw a 16 per cent rise in offences fuelled by reaction to terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. Independent charity Victim Support said the figures for 2021 were “seriously concerning” and fit a pattern for “spikes in hate crime linked to world events”, while the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that “more still needs to be done to improve the quality of support for victims”, including “effective hate crime training” for police forces. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said all forms of hate crime are “completely unacceptable – police will take, and do take, all reports seriously and we will do everything we can to investigate”.

The analysis has been compiled from data published by the Home Office. It shows that of the 44 forces in England and Wales, 39 reported a rise in racially and religiously aggravated offences from 2020 to 2021, while 34 forces saw numbers last year reach a new high. The offences – all of which are defined as hate crimes – include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment and criminal damage. Chief Superintendent Mat Shaer, West Midlands Police lead for hate crime, said: “We treat all hate crime seriously and encourage all victims and witnesses to come forward and report it.

“As a result we have seen an increase in the reporting of all forms of hate crime. We believe this reflects people’s increasing confidence in reporting hate crimes to us and we are continually looking to offer new ways to make reporting as easy as possible.”

Superintendent Rick Jackson, Greater Manchester Police’s hate crime lead, said the number of incidents during lockdown were “unprecedently low, so it was to be expected that there would be an increase” once restrictions were lifted, and that it was “encouraging that members of our communities have the trust and confidence in Greater Manchester Police to report hate crime”. The UK went back into lockdown at the beginning of last year due to the second wave of Covid-19 infections, with tight restrictions on travel, socialising and leisure activities. Analysis shows that January to March 2021 saw 13,899 racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded by forces in England and Wales, the lowest number for any quarter since the first three months of 2018.

But this was followed by a sharp jump to 21,239 offences in April to June, coinciding with the gradual lifting of Covid restrictions, before rising even higher in July-September (22,556) followed by slight drop in October-December (19,190). The period July to September also coincided with the end of the Euro football championships, which saw England lose the final on July 11 in a penalty shootout with Italy.

Police made a number of arrests in the weeks following the final, after abusive posts on social media targeted England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, all of whom missed penalties. One football fan who live-streamed himself on Facebook racially abusing the players was later handed a 10-week prison sentence, while another received a six-week sentence for racially abusing Rashford on Twitter.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive at Victim Support, said the figures reflect what the charity has been seeing in recent years, in particular an 11 per cent increase in 2021 in its own recorded cases of hate crime, nearly three-quarters of which involved abuse based on race and religion.

“We consistently see spikes in hate crime linked to world events – for example, following the Euros finals last summer – so this could be one reason for the rise,” she said.

“This trend is seriously concerning – no person or community should be targeted because of who they are.”

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