ESSEX Police has refused to blame the vote to leave the EU for the rise in hate crime despite reporting the biggest rise since comparable records began.

The majority of the nation’s police forces reported the highest number of incidents in the three months following the Brexit vote than in any quarter since 2012.

Essex Police claimed greater awareness and confidence in the police response was the reason why 33 of the country’s 42 forces experienced the highest number of reports on record at the same time.

A spokesman for the force said: “There is no evidence to suggest any increase has been specifically and directly caused by any one event or issue”.

In Essex, there were 376 incidents of hate crime reported between July and September. This was up 41 per cent on the previous quarter.

Hate crimes include any offence which is racially or religiously aggravated.

Crimes motivated by a person’s disability, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation are also included.

A spokesman said: “Essex Police does not tolerate hate crime in any form and take all reports seriously.

“There has been an increase in reports of alleged hate crime across Essex, which mirrors a national trend.

“Hate crime is significantly under-reported and we believe that greater awareness and confidence in the police response has contributed to these increases in reporting.

“Whether it’s an incident that takes place online or in the street, it’s important to let us know about hate crime to give us a chance to investigate and prosecute offenders and to ensure that victims and the wider community are protected.

“We can’t deal with the problem unless it is reported to us.

“We have also introduced 28 hate incident reporting centres where victims or witnesses can report crimes to specially trained hate crime ambassadors.”

Hate crimes are reported in Colchester at a rate of one every two days with more incidents reported in 2016 than in any previous year.

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