Brexit negotiations will increase hate crimes in South Yorkshire, claims police chief

Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees
Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson. Picture Scott Merrylees
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Ongoing Brexit negotiations are expected to result in an increase in hate crimes in South Yorkshire, a report by the county’s police chief has said.

A report by chief constable Stephen Watson said there has been a ‘significant increase’ in hate crimes since February 2016 - which he attributed to the EU referendum campaign and Brexit vote.

There have been almost 800 hate crimes reported in the county in the past seven months.

Mr Watson’s report said: “Hate crime and community tension reflects the political environment.

“The distinct rise in reported hate crime across South Yorkshire in 2016 can be attributed to the EU referendum campaign, subsequent Brexit vote and other international events, as well as increased awareness and victim confidence.

“The rise in South Yorkshire is consistent with the increase seen nationally. However, it should be noted that it is anticipated that there will be further rises as Brexit negotiations continue into 2017.

Following the vote to leave the EU in June, the UK is currently expected to trigger Article 50 by March, starting the process of two years of negotiations ahead of the Britain departing the European Union.

Mr Watson’s report on hate crime added: “Extensive work has been done across the county to understand and address these issues.

“Specific tensions seen in Rotherham and Sheffield have been subject to ongoing engagement and consultation to seek to reassure communities and re-establish relationships within and between communities and the police.”

In the last seven months, 116 offenders have been brought to justice for hate crimes, which are classified as any offence where prejudice against someone’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or age is a motivating feature.

The report said ‘there has been a continued long-term decrease in offenders brought to justice’ for hate crimes in percentage terms.

This summer a bomb threat was sent to a Rotherham mosque with a Neo-Nazi reference, while a Muslim woman was reported to have had her car attacked by a man carrying a gun earlier in the year.

The latest police report follows a similar one in October which stated that 81 per cent of hate crimes and hate incidents in Sheffield are racially-aggravated.

That said South Yorkshire Police has seen a 22 per cent increase in reported hate crimes in the last year, with a spike in incidents in July following vote to leave the European Union.