No suspect identified in more than 1,300 racially or religiously aggravated crimes in West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire Police recorded the third highest number of racially and religiously aggravated offences last year, with almost three in 10 resulting in no suspect being identified.

A new analysis found that across England and Wales, the offences hit a new high in 2020 and more than a quarter of investigations closed without forces identifying a suspect.

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The independent charity Victim Support called the figures "shocking" and said it was a "huge cause for concern that so many cases are left unsolved".

West Yorkshire Police recorded the third highest number of racially and religiously aggravated offences last year.

Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that although the police had taken "positive steps" in the recording of hate crime, "more still needs to be done to improve the process and the quality of support for victims".

The impact of the coronavirus lockdown, along with protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, were two of the main factors named by forces as helping to drive the increase in offences, along with improved recording of hate crimes.

A total of 61,851 racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded in 2020, up seven per cent from 57,825 in 2019.

This is also more than double the 28,479 offences recorded in 2013, the first calendar year for which comparable data is available.

West Yorkshire - the country's fourth largest force - recorded 4,627 offences in 2020. This was a reduction of one per cent on the 4,681 recorded in the previous year.

Of last year's offences, some 29 per cent were assigned the outcome “investigation complete – no suspect identified”. It is the equivalent of more than 1,300 offences.

Chief Inspector Chris Matthews, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Hate crime of any form is unacceptable and we will continue to work hard and encourage victims to come forward and ensure such offences are accurately recorded.

“It remains the case that West Yorkshire Police is one of only four forces to be graded as ‘outstanding’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service for our crime data integrity.

“Due to the integrity of our crime recording and our policy of encouraging the public to report any and all incidents, we do record a high volume of hate incidents which will include a substantial number of offences where the information is such that we will record a crime, however there is no evidential opportunity to establish a suspect – or where a victim wishes to report the incident to police but does not want to support any further action being taken."

He said reports can typically include incidents in which the victim is reporting a comment made to them but does not know the suspect and cannot provide any other information to allow officers to identify the person involved.

“It must be stressed that we do conduct further inquiries into all hate offences where evidential opportunities exist and also employ specialist hate crime coordinators in ‘gatekeeper’ roles to scrutinise reports and see if possibilities for further inquiries have been missed, and support victims of hate crime," he said.

“We absolutely do encourage victims to report hate incidents to us and work closely with hate incident reporting centres for third party or anonymous reports, encouraging more people to come forward. This allows us to understand the impact and true picture within the county."

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said forces had worked hard to improve their handling of hate crime, including better recording of offences, adding: "We are working with forces to help them understand and improve the service they provide to victims."

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