Religious hate crime in Thames Valley more than doubles, figures show

    Thames Valley Police are dealing with more religious hate crime, following a rise in offences after recent terrorist attacks and the EU referendum, official figures show.

    The latest Home Office data shows a 130% increase in the number of hate crime reported to the police, where religion is a motivating factor.

    Between April 2017 and March 2018, 186 incidents were recorded by Thames Valley Police, up from 81 the previous year.

    While police force figures do not break down crimes by religion, across England and Wales more than half of the hate crime reported was against Muslims.

    The Home Office report explains there were spikes in Islamophobic hate crime after recent terrorist attacks.

    The time period includes the Manchester Arena terror attack and the London Bridge attack.

    On March 22 2017, just before the start of the latest 12 months recorded, five people also died in a terror attack outside Parliament.

    Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a project which measures anti-Muslim attacks, said he was “not surprised” by the increase.

    “There has been a perfect storm of the political mainstreaming of Islamophobia, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right and abuse that’s allowed on social media.

    “Social media companies have come a long way, however they need to get quicker at banning people who post anti-Muslim content.

    “The media can improve how it reports incidents. For example with the Lee Rigby attack, they plastered the attacker over the front pages, which caused a wave of retaliatory hate crimes.”

    Mr Mughal believes the key is educating children from an early age to be tolerant to other religions.

    “According to our data, the most common age group of people committing Islamophobic hate crime are aged 13 to 18. This is why working with teachers and schools is so important.”

    Anti-Semitism was the second most common type of religious hate crime.

    The Board of Deputies of British Jews president, Marie van der Zyl, said the figures “must serve as an urgent call to action”.

    “All of us – faith leaders, politicians, and the media – should today step up our efforts to stamp out this cancer in our society,” she said.

    “The Jewish community will continue to work in solidarity with Muslims and people of all faiths. We cannot let Britain become a place where a hijab or a kippah marks someone out as a target.”

    The Community Safety Trust, which reports anti-Semitic incidents, said the figures showed a "significant over-representation of Jews as the target for hate crimes".

    In Thames Valley, the total number of recorded hate crime incidents has increased by 81% over the last five years.

    This is partly because of improvements in the way crimes are recorded, but there have been spikes after events such as the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks.

    The majority of hate crime, reported to Thames Valley Police, was racist incidents. They increased by 30% compared with the previous year, with 1,909 cases recorded by officers in 2017-18.

    The number of incidents where disability was a motivating factor, rose from 112 to 233.

    Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

    Five strands are monitored centrally: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity.

    Ahead of the release of the statistics, the Government published a refreshed strategy for tackling hate crime.

    The Law Commission will carry out a review to explore how to make current legislation more effective and consider if there should be additional "protected characteristics" to cover offences motivated by, or demonstrating, hatred based on sex and gender characteristics, or hatred of older people.

    In another step outlined in the blueprint, taxi drivers and door staff will be given guidance on spotting hate crime.

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