HATE crimes are less likely to be solved in Bolton and across Greater Manchester than anywhere else in the country.

Greater Manchester Police are closing nearly a half of investigations into racially and religiously-aggravated offences without identifying a suspect, new analysis shows.

In the 12 months to September 2018, 46% of such offences recorded by Greater Manchester Police were shut with no suspect in the frame.

The offences - all of which are defined as hate crimes - include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment and criminal damage.

Responding to the figures, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry said: "Victims are at the centre of what we do and when the results show that we are not achieving the standards that they expect, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.

"We recognise we have some way to go to reassure our communities that hate crimes are being treated as seriously as they would expect, but this in itself is a priority for us."

Greater Manchester Police acknowledged it had "a lot of work to do" to ensure hate crimes were dealt with "in the best ways that we can”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission described the figures as "disappointing", adding that victims of these offences often don't report what has happened to them "as they feel that the police won't take the incident seriously or have the power to act".

Independent charity Victim Support warned the figures could undermine public confidence in the ability of the justice system to report hate crime.

The analysis has been compiled by the Press Association based on data published by the Home Office. It reveals that: A total of 44 per cent – the highest in police forces across the country - of all racially and religiously-aggravated offences recorded in Greater Manchester were assigned the outcome "investigation complete - no suspect identified". This is used when a reported crime has been investigated "as far as reasonably possible" and the case is closed pending further investigative opportunities.

The total number of racially and religiously-aggravated offences recorded by police has reached a new high, with 57,652 recorded across England and Wales. - The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said that while any rise in hate crime was concerning, the latest figures also reflected success in improving the reporting of such offences.

NPCC Lead for Hate Crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said: "Unfortunately, with many cases, there are often no witnesses to these crimes and scarce evidence - this may lead to police being unable to identify a suspect. The police service has no tolerance for this type of abuse but we need to be made aware that crimes are taking place so that we can investigate - or better still, prevent them from happening."

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said it was vital that any potential hate crimes were reported to police to help ensure they were properly investigated and prosecuted.

"Attacking or harassing people is unacceptable in today's society and it is shameful when carried out because of their identity. Police forces must collect accurate and comprehensive data so they can develop effective solutions to end hate crime in our society," she said.

Diana Fawcett, chief officer at Victim Support, said the charity's experience showed that those who suffer racially and religiously motivated hate crime can be "seriously impacted, both emotionally and physically".

"The fact that such a large number of these cases are being closed with no suspect identified threatens to further undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system when it comes to reporting racially and religiously motivated hate crime," she added.