The number of alleged hate criminals being referred by police to be prosecuted fell last year despite a spike in reported incidents around the EU referendum.
A total of 14,480 hate crime prosecutions were completed across England and Wales in 2016-17, with a record number of sentences being increased because of the “hate” element of the crime.
In more than half of cases involving hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity the sentences were “uplifted”, which means courts passed increased sentences in more than 6,300 cases.
However, the total number of prosecutions was down from 15,442 in 2015-16, a fall of nearly 1,000, or 6.2 per cent, because of a drop in referrals by police.
Hate crime prosecutions are those offences perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.
The dip in the number of defendants pursued through courts will prompt fresh scrutiny of the authorities’ handling of complaints.
Figures on the number of hate crime offences recorded by police for the full 12 months have yet to be published. However, specially compiled statistics released last year revealed a sharp rise in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences logged by police forces in the weeks after the referendum in June.
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said: “The drop in referrals recorded last year has impacted on the number of completed prosecutions in 2016-17 and we are working with the police at a local and national level to understand the reasons for the overall fall in referrals in the past two years.”