Hate crime spiked in Suffolk after EU referendum
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Brexit has created a “hostile” society and has given people the green light to act on their prejudices, leaders have said.
New figures have revealed there was a sharp spike in hate crime in Suffolk after Britain voted to leave the European Union.
The referendum took place on June 23 last year, and in the following month Suffolk Constabulary recorded 65 offences of this nature, with 83% relating to discrimination against faith or race.
This was higher than any other month of 2016, according to data released by police after a Freedom of Information request.
Muhammad Manwar Ali, chief executive of charity JIMAS, based in Ipswich, said although he had not witnessed a rise in attacks in Suffolk, Brexit had made some members of the county’s Muslim community feel uncomfortable, especially women who wore a headscarf.
“It does concern us,” he added. “You feel more vulnerable when people are more openly able to express prejudice or hate.
“We have all had concerns expressed in our circles and private meetings about how the country and the world is changing and becoming more hostile, so politicians need to be careful and considerate.”
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Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for public protection at Ipswich Borough Council, said he was aware of an increase in hate crime in the town, with the referendum result encouraging some people to be “more open about their racist feelings”.
However, Mr Ross said Suffolk Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore appeared to be in “denial” about the problem.
“We raised our concern with the police as soon as the vote was announced as we feared there would be incidents and we raised it again after when we heard of incidents but unfortunately the police seemed to believe there was no real issue,” he added.
Mr Passmore said he had questioned Suffolk Constabulary on a number of occasions after the referendum about hate crime levels, but he was told there had been no rise.
He said: “Any hate crime is unacceptable and now the data has been verified I can see there was an increase.
“We take all reports very seriously and we need to find the perpetrators and deal with them through the criminal justice system.”
In June, Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) launched its ‘Suffolk Solidarity’ appeal in a bid to prevent attacks on non-UK nationals living in the county, working off the back of its Tackling Discrimination in the East project.
Audrey Ludwig, ISCRE’s director of legal services, said: “We know that people from different communities and particularly EU migrants are concerned about their futures and community cohesion, so we are working hard to support them.
“Through our Tackling Discrimination in the East initiative, we are aware that incidences of discrimination and outright hate crimes are still occurring and that reported hate crimes in particular continue to be higher than before the EU referendum result.”
Hate crime can include physical or verbal abuse due to the victim’s race, faith, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Chief Inspector Stuart Grimsey, head of community safety at Suffolk Constabulary, said: “It can have a serious and devastating effect on people’s lives and can divide communities. It could leave someone feeling particularly alone or vulnerable.
“It is a crime type we take very seriously and we look to ensure we do all we can to prevent, deter or bring the offenders to justice.”
He added: “Suffolk, like all the other forces nationally, saw similar trends in increases in hate crime post-Brexit.
“What’s good news is that trend is now coming down, and that is line with when we have seen referendums and political decisions in the past.”