A rise in hate crimes against transgender people could be partly down to public discussion by politicians, the Home Office has said.
While the overall number of hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales has fallen year-on-year for the first time in a decade, those motivated by religious and transgender hate have risen.
A total of 145,214 offences were recorded in the two nations in the year ending March 2023, down 5% from 153,536 in the previous 12 months, the Home Office said.
Religious hate crimes were up by 9% to 9,387 offences, while transgender hate crimes increased by 11%, to 4,732 offences.
In its accompanying notes with the latest statistics published on Thursday, the Home Office said: “Transgender issues have been heavily discussed by politicians, the media and on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in these offences, or more awareness in the police in the identification and recording of these crimes.”
When last year’s statistics were published and showed a rise in transgender hate crimes – albeit a larger one of more than 50% in a year – the Home Office’s accompanying notes mentioned only social media as being a possible factor.
It stated at that time: “Transgender issues have been heavily discussed on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in related hate crimes.”
Ms Braverman’s comments prompted Conservative chairman of the London Assembly Andrew Boff to shout out, and then be hauled out of the conference centre, before telling reporters that Ms Braverman’s speech was “making our Conservative Party look transphobic and homophobic”.
Thursday’s statistics showed the most commonly targeted group when it came to religious hate crime were Muslims, accounting for 39% of religious hate crime offences. This was followed by Jewish people, who were targeted in 17% of religious hate crimes, then Christian (7%), Hindu and Sikh (both 3%).
In 22% of these offences the targeted religion was not known.
Sexual orientation hate crimes fell by 6%, to 24,102 offences and disability hate crimes fell by 1% to 13,777 offences.
The statistics showed that there were 101,906 race hate crimes in the year ending March 2023, down 6% from the previous year (108,476).
Becca Rosenthal, national hate crime lead at the charity, said: “Those we support increasingly tell us that they are reluctant to approach the police, so these figures could simply reflect less people reporting to the police. Given this, independent support services for victims have never been more important.”
The department said the overall fall was “largely driven by a decrease in racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress when flagged as a hate crime”, which was down 8%, from 50,866 to 46,780 offences.
The Home Office suggested this might be linked to new interim guidance published last year which “may have led to greater scrutiny of the threshold of what constitutes a criminal offence of public fear, alarm or distress”.
The guidance by the College of Policing on the recording of non-crime hate incidents (NCHIs) instructed officers to consider whether there was genuine hostility in the incident or whether it could be considered freedom of speech or thought.
The Home Office said its rules for the recording of these offences had not changed.
Amy Little, head of advocacy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Further hate crime research is essential. It’s important to find out if the slight overall decrease in hate crimes could be linked to new police guidance on recording non-crime hate incidents.
“The Government must rethink the plan not to publish a hate crime strategy. If the Government wants to set targets for police responses to crime, then hate crime – including disability hate crime – should be a key focus and not brushed aside.”
The hate crime strategy plan was dropped due to the Government insisting it was instead concentrating on improving the police response to “all crime”.
Just over half (51%) of the hate crimes recorded by the police were for public order offences, 41% were for violence against the person offences and 5% were recorded as criminal damage and arson offences.
This year’s total figures do not include Devon and Cornwall Police, who were unable to provide information for 2022/23, the Home Office said.
A spokesperson for the department said there is “no place for hate in our society” and that the Government remains “committed to ensuring these abhorrent offences are stamped out”.
They added: “We are pleased there has been an overall reduction in hate crimes recorded by police, and the numbers of sexual orientation, race and disability hate crimes all fell. But any instance is one too many.
“We expect the police to fully investigate these hateful attacks and make sure the cowards who commit them feel the full force of the law.”