A majority of police forces in England and Wales saw record levels of hate crimes in the first full three months following June 2016 EU referendum, according to new analysis.
In some areas, the number of incidents jumped by more than 50%.
The fresh data compiled by the Press Association comes from official statistics which include detailed figures for five core crimes which are deemed to be racially or religiously aggravated, ranging from assaults through to criminal damage.
Following the vote to leave the EU, 75 per cent of constabularies recorded the highest reports of racially or religiously aggravated crimes since figures were first collected in 2012, the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.
In the three months to September 2016, 33 of the 44 forces in England and Wales saw their highest levels of hate crimes since comparable records began in 2012.
Three forces -- the Metropolitan Police (3,356), Greater Manchester (1,033) and West Yorkshire (1,013) -- recorded more than 1,000 hate crimes each over the period. Only four constabularies reported a decrease.
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 that more was 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.
EHRC Chairman David Isaac said it “must be sensible to prepare for any possible spikes” in hate crime once Brexit negotiations begin.
“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. 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.”
However, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Paul Nuttall has said that such incidents have been “overblown” in an attempt to “rubbish Brexit”.
Lucy Hastings, Director at Victim Support, said: “Hate crime has no place in our society and every victim of this crime is one too many. We believe that more needs to be done to further encourage reporting.”
“This includes making third-party hate crime units more accessible to the public,” she said.
The figures for hate crimes were compiled from open data published by every police force in England and Wales.
Comparable data was not available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.