RACIAL hate crime soared in Essex in the four years before the coronavirus pandemic, latest figures reveal.

Home Office data reveals a record number of race hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England and Wales in 2019-20 – the latest available figures.

Essex Police recorded 2,244 crimes during the period – an increase of more than double compared to 2015-16, when 872 incidents were reported.

They also marked a 10 per cent rise from 2018-19, when 2,048 racial hate crimes were reported.

The figures come as the nation reacts to the racist abuse suffered by three of England's footballers.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all received online racist abuse after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on Sunday night.

The comments have prompted a police investigation and widespread condemnation, including from England's manager Gareth Southgate, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William.

Charity Victim Support said it was "appalled" by the abuse, and said it followed a rise in reported race hate crime nationally during the pandemic.

Across England and Wales, police recorded 76,070 racial hate crimes in 2019-20 – the equivalent of more than 200 a day, and the highest number since comparable records began in 2011-12.

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England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Bukayo Saka after his penalty miss gave Italy victory in last Sunday's final (Photo: PA)

The figure, which did not include data from Greater Manchester Police, was a six per cent rise from 72,041 in 2018-19, and up by two-thirds from 2015-16, when 45,440 were reported.

The Home Office said the rise was partly down to improvements in recording and an awareness of hate crime.

It also said events such as the Brexit referendum in 2016 and terrorist attacks in 2017 were likely to have had an impact.

Victim Support said other factors, such as the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in America last year, had driven a further increase in reports.

The charity said it was "extremely saddened and appalled" by the abuse suffered by the three England football players following Sunday's match.

In the wake of the racist abuse of the England footballers, Home Secretary Priti Patel is now urging social media firms to take tougher action over racism ahead.

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Home Secretary and Witham MP Priti Patel

She said: "Racist abuse is utterly unacceptable and illegal, whether it takes place on or offline – those individuals who commit racist offences should rightly face the full force of the law."

But Witham MP Ms Patel has also come under fire for calling the England team's taking a knee "gesture politics".

Racist trolling against the England footballers has also seen a fresh wave of support for model Katie Price's online petition aimed at making it more difficult for online trolls to be anonymous.

The petition – which now has more than 660,000 signatures – wants to make it a legal requirement for anyone opening a new social media account to provide a verified form of ID.