Reported hate crimes in Devon and Cornwall increased significantly in the year to March, new figures show.

Hate crimes are defined as those motivated by a prejudice or hostility towards a personal characteristic – such as race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

Numbers across England and Wales have risen every year since records began in 2012, in part due to improvements in how police record hate crime.

The latest Home Office figures show 2,305 hate crimes were recorded by Devon and Cornwall Police in the year to March – a 25% increase from 1,848 the year before.

As across the rest of England and Wales, the highest proportion of these crimes were racially-motivated, with 1,367 such offences recorded last year.

The 109,843 race hate crimes recorded nationally in 2021 marked the first time a single category has topped 100,000 over a year.

And despite accounting for the smallest number of crimes across all categories, offences motivated by transgender identity saw the largest increase across the two nations.

There were 4,355 such offences in 2021-22 – of which 93 were recorded in Devon and Cornwall – a 56% increase on 2,799 the year before.

The Home Office said transgender issues have been “heavily discussed on social media” over the last year, which may have contributed to the rise.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive at the charity Victim Support, said: “No one should have to endure abuse and discrimination for simply being themselves.

"Hate crime is a very personal offence which can shatter victims’ confidence and self-worth, making them feel unsafe and threatened – so any rise is seriously worrying."

Devon and Cornwall Police also recorded 513 offences on the basis of sexual orientation, 128 religious hate crimes and 337 against people with disabilities.

Crimes can be tagged with more than one category, so the overall number of offences may be lower than the sum of the reasons given.

Ms Fawcett cautioned that increased numbers may be the product of better police awareness and incident-logging, which would be an "encouraging trend".

"Our own data actually shows levels of hate crime have remained fairly stable, slightly falling over the past year," she added.

The total number of hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales rose 26% in 2021-22, from 124,104 to 155,841.

According to analysis of figures submitted by 26 forces to the Home Office, 9% of hate crime flagged offences had been dealt with by a charge or summons over this period, slightly below 10% in the year ending March 2021.

A Home Office spokesperson said:“Hate crime is a scourge on communities across the country. It does not reflect the values of modern Britain.

“While the rise in cases is likely to be largely driven by improvements in police recording, these can be serious crimes such as assault and we cannot be complacent.

"We expect the police to fully investigate these hateful attacks and make sure the cowards who commit them feel the full force of the law.”