New statistics on hate crime should be a stark warning to anyone who denied it was a problem, campaigning MEP Anthea McIntyre said today.

The co- founder of the anti hate-crime organisation West Midlands Together spoke out after figures showed a huge surge in offences linked to people's religious beliefs.

She said: "Every one of these incidents is a denial of someone's dignity, security and peace of mind. Every one is a stain on our country's reputation for tolerance,  and we must do all we can to turn this tide."

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands launched the cross-party group with her Labour colleague Neena Gill following a sharp rise in hate crime following the EU referendum.

Today Police in England and Wales announced an increase of 40% in religious hate crime compared with last year's figures. Some 52% of this was aimed at Muslims.

The overall number of incidents rose to a record high of 94,098, from April 2017 to March this year - a rise of 17%. More than three quarters of those were classified as "race hate".

Crimes targeted at people because of their sexual orientation made up 12% of the total, with religious hatred at 9%, disability hate 8% and transgender hate crimes 2%.

Miss Mcintyre welcomed the announcement of a raft of Government measures to tackle hate crime including a Law Commission review, a public campaign to tackle intolerance, funding for educational programmes and extra security at a further 45 places of worship.

Mis McIntyre said:  "West Midlands together was formed to show that this is overwhelmingly a respectful and tolerant society and that such poisonous behaviour is not acceptable or the norm.

"It may be that we are seeing hate crime treated more seriously and better-recorded. That would be a good thing, but the these figures are also a stark warning that the problem is real and is far from going away yet."