SERIOUS concerns have been raised following a worrying increase in hate crime across Warrington.

During the period from April to December 2018, hate crime soared by 33.5 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.

It saw recorded crimes in the borough rise from 236 to 315.

The month with the highest number was November, with 43, followed by August, 41, and June, 40.

Reporting of disability motivated hate crime increased by 42 per cent, from 26 to 37, but officers say they recognise this is 'significantly under reported'.

Cllr Tony Higgins, executive board member responsible for leisure and community, has responded to the figures.

He said: "Hate crime is ignorance based. Freedom of speech does not include attacking anyone, whether that's based on their religion, sexuality, disability or colour.

"As the newly elected deputy chair of the Warrington hate crime panel, I will be working hard in fighting against such bigotry – but we all must play our part to make vital changes if we are to make a difference to these worrying rises.

"Warrington is in a good place when it comes to large scale community events such as the Mela, which is growing in scale and reputation, helping to build vital community cohesion.

"Strengthening our community is vital in the fight against the rise of hate crimes."

Warrington central had the highest volume of hate crimes between April to December 2018 with 118 – an increase of 22 from the same period in 2017.

Hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived by the victim, or another person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

It can take many forms including a physical attack, threat of an attack and verbal abuse or insults.

Police say hate crime inflicts a 'greater psychological distress' on the victim than a non-bias crime and that victims can suffer severe post-traumatic stress symptoms such as depression, anxiety and anger.

Cheshire's police and crime commissioner David Keane has previously raised concerns over hate crime being 'hugely under-reported'.

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