THE number of hate crimes reported to police in Somerset surged following the EU referendum, new figures reveal.

Avon and Somerset Police revealed they had 449 reports of hate crime incidents from July to September last year, which is a 19 per cent increase compared to last year's figures.

The force was also ranked as 28th in the country in terms of the biggest increases.

As reported in the County Gazette, Avon and Somerset Police revealed an average of ten hate crime incidents a day were reported in the weeks after the controversial referendum, which saw the United Kingdom decide to leave the European Union, by a 52 per cent to 48 per cent margin.

A hate crime is classed as five types of racially or religiously aggravated offences, including assault with injury, assault without injury, harassment, public fear, alarm or distress, or other criminal damage.

The worrying figures were released today by the Press Association, and showed Somerset's neighbouring forces, Dorset Police and Devon and Cornwall Police, reported a 100 per cent increase and a 63 per cent increase respectively.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the findings suggested a small number of people used the Brexit vote "to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice", while the charity Victim Support said more needed to be done to encourage victims to come forward.

Provisional figures on hate crimes published by the Home Office in October 2016 suggested that offences in July 2016 were 41 per cent higher than in July 2015.

The new analysis shows that a rise in incidents was seen in almost every force in England and Wales, both year-on-year and when comparing the three months either side of the referendum.

David Isaac, chairman of the EHRC, said it "must be sensible to prepare for any possible spikes" in hate crime once Brexit negotiations got under way.

"The vast majority of people who voted to leave the European Union did so because they believed it was best for Britain and not because they are intolerant of others," he said.

"It is clear, however, that a small minority of people used the Brexit vote to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice. We cannot allow such intolerable acts of hate to be condoned or repeated.

"The triggering of Article 50 is the next major milestone and we must do all we can to discourage hate attacks and to support people who feel at risk."

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I‘m appalled to hear the effect the EU Referendum result has had on hate crime both nationally and in Avon and Somerset. No one should feel judged because of their race, gender, sexuality or, in this case, their beliefs.

“To bring an end to hate crime for good, it’s essential that the police know about any form of hate crime you’ve experienced so they can respond. If you’re a victim of hate crime please know you’re not alone, you will be believed and help is available.

“Together we must stand united against those who incite prejudice and hate. We must celebrate our differences and condemn those who discriminate.”

Here are the number of hate crime offences recorded by police forces in England and Wales in July-September 2016.

They are ranked according to the size of the change compared with April-June 2016, which is the figure shown in brackets.

An asterisk denotes that it was the highest quarterly figure since comparable records began in April 2012.

  • Dorset 104* (up 100%)
  • Nottinghamshire 189* (up 75%)
  • North Yorkshire 64* (up 68%)
  • West Mercia 247* (up 64%)
  • Devon and Cornwall 220* (up 63%)
  • Leicestershire 213* (up 60%)
  • Kent 277* (up 60%)
  • Lincolnshire 78* (up 59%)
  • Humberside 140* (up 57%)
  • Dyfed-Powys 35* (up 52%)
  • Northumbria 394* (up 48%)
  • West Yorkshire 1,013* (up 46%)
  • Essex 376* (up 41%)
  • Wiltshire 134* (up 38%)
  • Suffolk 123* (up 37%)
  • British Transport Police 620* (up 34%)
  • Hampshire 463* (up 33%)
  • Sussex 385* (up 32%)
  • Hertfordshire 266* (up 30%)
  • Cleveland 159* (up 29%)
  • West Midlands 923* (up 27%)
  • Norfolk 130* (up 25%)
  • Gwent 77 (up 22%)
  • North Wales 56 (up 22%)
  • Lancashire 128 (up 21%)
  • Metropolitan Police 3,356* (up 20%)
  • Thames Valley 286* (up 20%)
  • Avon and Somerset 449* (up 19%)
  • Merseyside 477* (up 19%)
  • Greater Manchester 1,033* (up 19%)
  • Cheshire 195* (up 18%)
  • Durham 66 (up 16%)
  • Cumbria 50 (up 14%)
  • South Wales 276* (up 10%)
  • Cambridgeshire 179* (up 9%)
  • Derbyshire 117 (up 8%)
  • Staffordshire 237* (up 6%)
  • Warwickshire 106* (up 6%)
  • Bedfordshire 133* (up 6%)
  • Northamptonshire 79 (up 4%)
  • South Yorkshire 225 (down 1%)
  • Gloucestershire 55 (down 4%)
  • Surrey 137 (down 7%)
  • City of London 25 (down 7%)
  • Total: 14,295* (up 27%)