West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has issued an unequivocal warning that those perpetrating hate crime will face swift action.
Mark Burns-Williamson was speaking amid concerns that cases of people being abused because of their race or nationality had risen dramatically at both a local and national level.
Some have blamed a highly-charged debate over Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union – which increasingly focused on immigration during the final stages of the referendum campaign – for the increase in incidents.
Mr Burns-Williamson said that these offences would not be tolerated and urged anyone affected by hate crime to report the matter to police.
“Everyone has a right to feel safe and no one should ever be a victim of hate crime because of their disability, gender, identity, race, religion, sexual orientation or because of how they choose to dress,” he said in a statement last week.
“I recognise that people are concerned but want to reassure communities that we remain vigilant and have been raising awareness and offering support and reassurance around tackling hate crime for a number of years, including the ongoing ‘Hate Hurts’ campaign.
“I encourage anyone affected to come forward and report it and know that if they do, we will take every report seriously and investigate thoroughly, putting appropriate support in place for any victims.”
Figures made public by senior police officers suggest that hate crime has increased fivefold since the referendum result, although some forces believe that the offences recorded may be a fraction of the true number – amid concerns that many cases are not being reported to the authorities.
Fiyaz Mughal, founder of the Tell Mama charity, said that national events may have emboldened far-right groups around the country.
“Brexit has left them feeling legitimised, their bigotry normalised, and their views have hardened towards immigration, multiculturalism and the Muslim community,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
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