RACIST hate crime has increased by almost 50 per cent in the region since the EU referendum.

West Mercia Police recorded 903 incidents where someone was abused or attacked due to their race in the 2016/17 financial year compared to 620 a year earlier – an increase of 46 per cent.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, who leads West Mercia Police’s response to hate crime, said: “No-one should be targeted for being themselves and we can never underestimate the devastating effect being a victim of a hate crime can have on people.

“Over the past few years we have worked very hard to raise awareness of what hate crime is and encourage people to come forward and report this to police, working with our partners to make sure support is available.

“We recognise how it important it is in getting our response to hate crime right and are currently carrying out a lot of work to improve this and our contact with victims.

“We have already made great strides in this but are not complacent and know there is always room for improvement.

“We work very closely with our independent advisory groups made up of representatives from our local communities to ensure our response is appropriate and is considerate to the needs of victims.

“There is no place for hate crime in our communities and I really would urge anyone who feels they have been targeted because of who they are to come forward and report this to police.”

A Home Office report said, while police recording methods have improved, part of the increase is due to a genuine increase in hate crime, particularly around the time of the EU referendum.

The total number of hate crimes in West Mercia increased by 355 in 2016-17, with racist offences making up the majority.

The figures also show a rise in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crime, where religion was a motivating factor - 28 cases were recorded in 2016/17, three more than the previous year.

Incidents where disability is the motivating factor have also risen, from 54 in 2015-16 to 77 a year later.

Rose Simkins, chief executive of Stop Hate UK, said it was “now an indisputable fact” that racist incidents have risen since the Brexit vote.

She said: “Our own figures also support this trend where, after several years of disability being the biggest motivating factor, there was a clear shift towards race being the biggest factor.

“After the referendum, more people reported suffering hate for the first time, as deep-rooted prejudices surfaced and manifested themselves as abuse and threats to innocent members of the public.”