POLICE are clamping down on Islamophobia after it was revealed there were 150 religious hate crimes in Essex in the past year.

Essex Police is raising awareness of the issue as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

The move comes after Jacqueline Huckle, 56, of Sladburys Lane, Holland-on-Sea, was jailed for nine weeks after praising the actions of a man alleged to have killed more than 50 Muslims in mosque shootings in New Zealand in March.

On the day of the shooting, Huckle commented on a news article about the tragedy and claimed that the suspect, who is due to stand trial in 2020, should be “given a medal”.

A spokesman for the force said: “Thanks to the hard work of PC Sam Harris in Tendring’s Community Policing Team, we were able to track Huckle and bring her to justice for her vile actions.

“She was given an immediate jail term by Colchester Magistrates’ Court, despite having no previous convictions.

“This outstanding result is just one example of how our officers will work to tackle hate crime and get justice for victims across the county.”

Essex Police said that throughout this year’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week, it is working to raise awareness of different types of hate crime, including religious hate crime, particularly against those of the Islamic faith.

Between September 2018 and August 2019, Essex Police saw a total of 153 hate crimes reported as a result of the victim’s religious beliefs. This ranged from Islamophobia to anti-Semitism, to hate crimes against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.

The highest figures came from the Muslim community, who reported 48 crimes.

Essex Police said: “We work closely with Imams of local mosques, Islamic Prayer Centres, and leaders of other groups within the Muslim communities to ensure we raise awareness of hate crime and, where we believe that hate crime incidents have taken place, offer extra reassurance and high-visibility patrols to ensure that people from the community can go about their daily prayers, known as Salat.”

“We know hate crimes in the Muslim community can be under-reported, particularly by women who practise the faith.

“Any hateful comment about your dress, particularly if wearing niqab, burka, hijab or any other form of headscarf or veil, dietary choices, or any other common practices in your faith, are hate crimes and we will take them seriously.

“Hate crimes can also be the use of racist or Islamophobia language used in person or through social media, harassment, threats of violence, or forms of physical assault, which can range from spitting to grievous bodily harm injuries."

A spokesman for Tell MAMA, an independent organisation which tracks anti-Muslim attacks, said: “We back Essex Police in ensuring hate crime work is centre to the work they do in tackling crime. Hate crime work has significant impacts on communities and individuals and on the social cohesion of our country.”

Those who don’t feel comfortable reporting hate crime to police in the first instance, can call the Stop Hate UK hotline on 0800 138 1625.