A total of 676 hate crimes were reported in Swindon and Wiltshire between April 2018 and March 2019 compared to last year’s figure of 554 for 2017/18.

This is a 22 per cent increase in overall hate crime in the county, however it represents only two per cent of all reported crimes in Wiltshire and Swindon.

These latest statistics, published by Wiltshire Police, come on the same day as the Home Office national figures are published in Hate Crime Awareness Week (October 12-19).

Five “hate crime strands” are monitored for offences, they are: race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

Latest figures show that, in Swindon and Wiltshire, there are particular increases in reported disability, sexual orientation and transgender related hate crimes:

• Disability: a rise of 23 reported crimes in the past year, rising to 61 in 2018/19, compared to 38 in 2017/18 = 38

• Transgender identity: a rise of 17 reported crimes in the past year, increasing to 27 in 2018/19 from ten in 2017/18.

• Sexual orientation: a rise of 38 crimes in the past year, going up to 93 in 2018/19 from 55 in 2017/18.

• Racial: remains the biggest of all reported hate crimes and rose by 51 from 442 to 493 in 2018/2019.

• Religious: there was a reduction in the number of reported religious hate crimes in the past 12 months, down 11 from 37 last year to 26 this year.

Superintendent Mark Calland, the Wiltshire Police force lead for hate crime, said: “I welcome these latest figures which indicate the overall hate crime picture in our county has risen.”

“I see the increase in part as a positive as it shows more and more people are aware of what hate crime is and are coming forward to report it.

“For example, historically, the number of reported hate crimes against someone’s sexual orientation were very low; as you can see we are seeing an increase - this being an indication that more people are now reporting it.

“We want everyone to have the confidence to report these types of crimes and keep reporting them.

“There is never any excuse for hate crime; as a Force we take all reports seriously and will respond robustly to anyone committing these crimes.

“Our message is, we will pursue and prosecute anyone where there’s evidence that this type of frightening and distressing crime has been committed.”

To report hate crime: call 999 in an emergency, call 101 for non-emergency, or on www.wiltshire.police.uk

Alternatively, report online through True Vision www.report-it.org.uk, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report anonymously.

Anyone who comes across hateful content on social media platforms should use the reporting channels provided by social media companies to raise concerns.