THE chief of Sussex Police has praised Albion fans for their intolerance of hate crimes during Amex matches.

Chief Constable Giles York told Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne that of the nine arrests at the ground so far this season, a “significant number” were for hate crimes.

During a performance and accountability meeting, Mr York said the Seagulls were “leading” in becoming a zero tolerance club, adding that visiting fans had started to follow the example of home fans and stewards in reporting any incidents.

Mr York said: “We work really closely with the ground in following up on complaints, whether around racism, whether around criticism of LGBT.

“What we’re beginning to see now is the fans themselves are becoming intolerant.

“It’s not just the stewards reporting this behaviour, it’s the fans reporting the behaviour as well, and even the fans visiting Brighton are beginning to report the behaviour.”

Reports of hate crime across Sussex have increased by 23 per cent in the past year – a fact Mr York puts down to more people trusting the police enough to come forward.

The reports have ranged from assaults to verbal abuse or social media abuse, with people targeted because of their disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The biggest increase centred around religion, with 272 reports in 2019 compared with 185 the year before.

Mr York said the police faced a three-fold challenge when it came to hate crime – gaining the trust of the various communities, encouraging them to report any assaults or abuse and ensuring officers responded to those reports in the manner the victims would expect.

He said: “Getting that trust and engagement in the first place is absolutely critical for us.

“That is why we do so much work around the engagement in the first instance. It’s about really listening to victims when they do have the courage to talk to us about this and giving them a service they expect.”

Mr York said police sometimes noticed a “spike” in reported incidents following terrorist attacks or around Brexit.

When asked about preparations for the UK’s departure from the EU, he said: “We’re quite well-practised at preparing for Brexit now. We’ve done it a number of times.

“At the moment there seems to be less tension around this one than previously – maybe because it’s more certain.

“However we are still prepared, we are still monitoring those tensions at a local level.”