Political parties are being urged to commit to equal legal protections for all communities that face hate crime in this year's general election manifestos.

Campaign group Galop has written a joint letter today with 75 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) allies to party leaders to commit to a full review of hate crime laws.

The letter states: 'The current two-tier system gives lesser protections to people targeted because they are LGBT or disabled people compared with laws focused on race and faith hate crime. The current outdated laws send a message that some groups are less worthy of protection than others, which undermines the confidence of victims in the law.'

Latest hate crime statistics published by the Home Office show 62,518 offences recorded by the police in 2015/16 in which one or more hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor - up 19% on the 52,465 hate crimes recorded in 2014/15.

Of those recorded in 2015/16, 7,194 were sexual orientation hate crimes, 3,629 were disability hate crimes, and 858 were transgender hate crimes.

The Law Commission, publishing a report on hate crime in 2014, said an 'enhanced sentencing regime' applicable to cases where hostility is established, is a potentially powerful weapon. The judge declares in open court that the offender's sentence has been increased because the hate element has made the offence more serious. However, this regime was 'underused and no adequate record is made of cases where it has been applied', the commission said.

It recommended a full-scale review of 'aggravated' offences, and how such offences are formed and operate.

Today's letter states: 'One problem with English and Welsh laws is that homophobic, transphobic, biphobic and disability hate crimes have a lower maximum sentence than race and faith hate crime.

'That means courts can only give a sentence a quarter as long for some types of anti-LGBT and disability hate crime compared with their race or faith equivalents.

'It also means that it is often not properly documented on the criminal records of those found guilty of anti-LGBT and disability hate crimes. That prevents courts, prisons and probation services from identifying and challenging the prejudice driving repeat offender's behaviour.'

The group welcomed a current review of Scottish hate crime law.