18/05/2018 11:57 BST | Updated 18/05/2018 13:21 BST

Revealed: Plan To Tackle Online Hate Crime Will Employ Just 4 Police Officers

There were 80,393 offences last year - a 29% increase on the year before.

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Home Secretary Sajid Javid faces questions over the Government's hate crime hub

A new online hate crime unit to stem the tide of abuse on the internet will employ just four police officers, HuffPost UK has learned. 

The national hub would “channel all reports” of hate crime and “drive up the number of prosecutions”, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised, when the specialist hub was announced with widespread press coverage in October. 

But ministers have now admitted that just three new officers - of a grand total of four - have been hired for the gargantuan task. 

It comes after hate crime in the UK hit a record high last year. 

There were 80,393 offences in 2016-17, compared with 62,518 in 2015-16 - the largest increase (29%) since records began. 

Rudd’s successor Sajid Javid has already faced accusations of failing to give the new unit resources, with just £200,000 of public cash set aside. 

Now Labour’s Louise Haigh, shadow policing and crime minister, has accused ministers of failing to take the issue seriously.

She said: “Online hate crime is a serious emerging challenge for the police & society but these revelations show the Government are simply paying lip service to the problem.

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Louise Haigh, Labour's shadow policing and crime minister 

“By employing just three officers to respond to a tidal wave of online crimes, the Government have sent a clear message to tens of thousands of victims that they don’t take their experiences seriously.”

Disability or transgender hate crimes increased by 53% and 45% respectively last year, but the majority of hate crimes were racially motivated.

In 2016-17:

  • 62,685 (78%) were race hate crimes

  • 9,157 (11%) were sexual orientation hate crimes

  • 5,949 (7%) were religious hate crimes

  • 5,558 (7%) were disability hate crimes

  • 1,248 (2%) were transgender hate crimes

An audit by Amnesty International also found that 25,000 abusive messages were sent to female MPs on Twitter in six months of 2017, and that two thirds of those involved intimidation or a threat of violence.

Women’s Aid has also said that a third of women have suffered online harassment by a current or former partner.

The hub, which will be supervised by Greater Manchester Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council, was established to “encourage victims to come forward” and “identify perpetrators” amid growing concern about the lawless space online.

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Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned in the wake of the Windrush scandal 

Rudd called the new unit an “important step” in clamping down on offences, vowing to the public: “What is illegal offline is illegal online, and those who commit these cowardly crimes should be met with the full force of the law.” 

Nick Lowles, chief executive of the charity Hope Not Hate, said the Government will have questions to answer if more officers were not drafted in.

He said: “When the Home Secretary announced the formation of the hub in October 2017 we were certainly led to believe that the unit would be far larger than appears to be the case. Hate crime is rising fast and it is vital that the Home Office puts adequate resources into the hub to fulfil its mission.

“If not, and this ends up being a tokenistic gesture, then ministers will have to face those who’ve been attacked, abused and left in fear and be prepared to tell them why more was not done when the initial promises seemed so high.”

HuffPost UK has contacted the Home Office for a comment but no-one has yet responded to our request.