Just one in seven sexual orientation hate crimes led to a charge or summons in Dorset last year, figures suggest.

LGBT charity Stonewall said police must do more to investigate potential crimes and improve the low number of charges relative to offences across the country.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request by RADAR show there were 160 sexual orientation hate crimes recorded by Dorset Police last year.

Of those, just 24 (15%) had led to a charge or summons at the time of the request.

At least 15 (9%) were dropped because a suspect could not be identified, and the victim did not support further action, and a further 23 (14%) were closed due to evidential difficulties despite a suspect being identified and the victim supporting action.

Data from the 32 forces across England and Wales that provided information on investigation outcomes shows only 1,648 (9%) of the 17,824 offences recorded in 2021 led to a charge or summons.

Forces were asked to provide the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, and the investigation outcomes, for each of the last five years.

While some offences may have still been under investigation at the time of the request, the landscape of low charge rates is reflected across the country.

Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall, said society must do more to "combat anti-LGBTQ+ violence and call out abuse, harassment and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment wherever we see it".

Mr de Santos added: "But we also need a greater commitment from the police to take decisive action to follow up and investigate these offences."

Meanwhile, separate Home Office figures released recently show the number of offences across England and Wales has soared during the coronavirus pandemic – 26,200 were recorded in the year to March, a 41% rise on the year before, when there were 18,600, and a 65% increase on 2019-20.

In Dorset, sexual orientation-motivated hate crimes rose by 27% from 157 in 2020-21 to 199 in 2021-22.

Only two areas – Northamptonshire and Suffolk – saw the number of offences fall in the same time period.

LGBT charities said the rise in hate crimes in recent years is "deeply worrying", but warned many go unreported and the figures do not accurately represent the whole picture.

Leni Morris, CEO of anti-abuse charity Galop, said demand for the charity's support services has continued to rise in the last six months.

"Sadly, wherever our community is more visible, this tends to result in higher levels of abuse and violence," Ms Morris added.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said it takes all reports of hate crime seriously – admitting it often goes under-reported – and will continue to "bring offenders to justice and to protect our communities from abuse".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Government takes all forms of hate crime seriously, including homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic hate crimes.

"While the rise in cases is likely to be largely driven by improvements in police recording, these can be serious crimes such as assault and we cannot be complacent.

"We expect the police to fully investigate these hateful attacks and make sure the cowards who commit them feel the full force of the law."