Race offences on rise in Suffolk

MORE people than ever are being found guilty of racially aggravated offences of violence in Suffolk, it emerged today.

MORE people than ever are being found guilty of racially aggravated offences of violence in Suffolk, it emerged today.

New figures show the conviction rate has nearly trebled in only five years, from just 20 in 2002, to 58 in 2006.

The dramatic increase mirrors a similar sharp rise in the numbers of reported racist incidents.

In 1998/99, 150 offences which were believed to have been motivated by prejudice or hate, owing to race and faith, were reported.

But by 2006/07, that figure had leapt to 437 - a 191 per cent rise.

Police claim the increase could be down to the implementation of a number of measures aimed at making the reporting of such offences easier.

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However, Jane Basham, director of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said the results were an indication that racism was on the rise in the county.

“We must remember that it is a minority of people who commit race hate crime,” she said.

“Racism is an issue in Suffolk. The reality is that we continue to see an increase in racism across the county.

“ISCRE does not believe there is any real evidence to support the view that increased reporting and conviction rates of race hate crime is as a direct result of vigilance of agencies and confidence in the system.”

All police forces are required to closely monitor offences deemed to be racially aggravated.

Suffolk police said a new website and freephone number had made reporting racist incidents simpler, thus speeding up the conviction rate.

The force also believes the influx of migrant workers from Eastern Europe, many of whom are attracted to the county's employment opportunities, could also be behind the increase.

Peter Haystead, Suffolk police's community relations inspector, said dealing with hate crime was a priority.

He said: “There are various initiatives which police have developed over the years to try to encourage people to report incidents.

“We have seen a general increase (in offences involving racism) but the British Crime Survey suggests that's down to people's confidence in reporting incidents rather than an increase in the number of offences.”

To report a hate crime, call freephone 0800 1381643, or 999 in an emergency.

Have you been affected by racism? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Racially aggravated offences of violence:

2002 - 20

2003 - 24

2004 - 40

2005 - 39

2006 - 58