A 24-HOUR helpline has been launched to help victims of hate crime in North Yorkshire.

The number of hate crimes - which can include hostility or violence directed at someone due to their disability, gender-identity, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief - has increased in North Yorkshire in recent years, with 387 recorded in 2013/2014 - up 21 per cent from the previous year.

Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said police believe this number could be much higher, due to under-reporting of such offences, and the new helpline will make it easier for people to report incidents.

He said: “Part of the reason for low reporting is that many people aren’t sure exactly what a hate crime is, or where and how to report it. We want to spread the word that name-calling, verbal threats, graffiti, bullying and damage to personal property doesn’t have to be tolerated, and that victims of such behaviour can call the Stop Hate helpline to report what has happened and get advice on what to do.”

The launch comes only days after a Spanish couple in their 20s were subjected to a sustained assault by five men in York city centre, which left the male victim with a broken jaw and other injuries, in an incident police believe was due to their being from another country.

Trained operators at the Stop Hate UK helpline will advise callers on whether what has happened is a hate crime offence, and pass details to the police and other support agencies, with the consent of the caller.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said research showed hate crime was an issue the public wanted to see addressed in York and Scarborough.

She said: “The launch of the Stop Hate telephone line is an important step forward in dealing with this problem, and I hope that community leaders, teachers and support groups will really get behind the Stop Hate initiative.”

The Stop Hate UK helpline is available on 0800 138 1625, and an online chat service is also available on stophateuk.org/talk-to-us