HATE crime has reached record levels in Hampshire with police logging seven offences each day.

Charity bosses and faith leaders have called for urgent action to tackle record levels of hate crime, with a rise in incidents showing no signs of slowing nationally.

Hampshire Police recorded 2,726 hate crimes in 2018-19, the latest Home Office statistics show – up one per cent from the previous year.

The rise continues the upward trend seen since records began in 2012-13, when officers logged 1,121.

Reports can include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment and criminal damage.

Two-thirds of reports in Hampshire related to race, while 15 per cent featured hostility towards sexual orientation.

Across England and Wales, police recorded more than 103,000 hate crimes in the last year, a 10 per cent rise on the previous year's figures, and more than double the 42,000 recorded in 2012-13.

The Home Office attributes this steady rise in part down to improvements in the way crimes are recorded. Spikes in reporting after events such as the EU referendum in 2016 and terror attacks the following year also contributed, it said.

Another, unexplained jump over the summer of 2018, and again in January this year, however, may reflect a "real rise" in recorded hate crimes, statisticians added.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs' Council's lead on hate crime, said: "We recognise there are real divisions in our society at this time, and there is a responsibility on us all to think carefully and be temperate in how we communicate with each other to avoid escalating tensions."

Citizens UK, an umbrella organisation of faith and community groups, said its research suggests levels of hate crimes are far higher than those recorded in official data.

Their open letter, which expressed "deep concern at the rising tide of fear and division", featured 18 bishops, imams and rabbis as signatories, along with leaders from Stonewall, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Fawcett Society.

Matthew Bolton, Citizen UK's executive director, said: "Communities from across the UK are increasingly concerned that we aren't going fast enough or far enough to strengthen hate crime protections.

"Political, media and institutional decision makers need an action plan to stop the toxic mix of scare stories on social media and a divisive political environment, which is providing a breeding ground for hate.

"We stand ready to work with political leaders and public institutions to find positive solutions to help communities feel safer."