London: Child abuse cases linked to exorcism and witchcraft have recorded a significant rise in Britain, latest figures released by the Scotland Yard showed on Sunday.
“Project Violet,” the specialist faith-based abuse team within the Metropolitan Police Service, has identified 60 incidents so far this year — compared to 46 such allegations last year, which was more than double the number in 2013.
Detective Sergeant Terry Sharpe, from the special team, said that “there has been a significant increase.”
“You’ll get the actual physical abuse and injuries taking place, and in the worst case scenario we’ve had some homicides as well.
“We’ve had a case within the last year where a nine-year-old boy had been called a devil child and thrown out of his address by his parents and was found by social services standing in his bare feet,” Sharpe said.
Data obtained by BBC Radio 5 found that half the UK’s police forces do not routinely record such cases.
Besides the Met Police, only two other forces reported incidents over the last three years – Greater Manchester and Northamptonshire each had one case.
A separate Freedom of Information request to councils across the UK showed 31 instances of a child being accused of witchcraft or possession by spirits in 2014.
This compares to 21 cases in 2013 and 10 in 2012.
Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said accusations were often made when African-origin families experienced problems and the church pastor would blame it on the devil.
However, she warned against viewing the issue as solely affecting the African community, as her organisation has supported victims from other faiths and cultural backgrounds, including the South Asian community.
“It is very important to know the background, so that if a child comes to school on Monday and says ‘the pastor called me a witch’, they treat it as a safeguarding issue and don’t dismiss,” she told BBC.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than keeping children safe. No belief system can justify the abuse of a child – it is unacceptable in whatever form it takes.
“Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be prosecuted under the same legislation as anyone abusing or killing a child for other reasons.”
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