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A woman assists an injured person after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville SEARCH "MELVILLE WESTMINSTER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC13E09B3540


LONDON (Reuters) - Hate crimes in Britain surged by the highest amount on record last year, official figures showed on Tuesday, with the vote to leave the European Union a significant factor.

The Home Office (interior ministry) said there were 80,393 offences in 2016/17, a rise of 29 percent from the year before and the largest percentage increase since the figures were first collated five years ago.

While better recording by police was one reason, last June's vote for Brexit which sparked attacks on some eastern European communities, was another significant reason.

"Part of the increase since 2015/16 is due to a genuine increase in hate crime, particularly around the time of the EU referendum," the Home Office report said.

The report also noted that race hate crimes, which made up the vast bulk of all hate crimes, had increased after a man drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London killing four people before stabbing a policeman to death outside parliament.

"The Westminster Bridge attack occurred on the 22 March 2017. Although there were only nine days remaining in March when the attack took place, an increase is still apparent," the report said.

In August, police said hate crimes had spiked in the aftermath of three attacks this year blamed on Islamist militants but that the number had decreased quickly in the following days.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

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