Witchcraft crime on the rise in the UK
A BBC investigation into faith-based crime, broadcast yesterday on Radio 5, claimed that a special Metropolitan Police team – Operation Violet – has seen a significant increase in reports of crimes related to witchcraft in London.
But other areas don’t have such specialist expertise and half of police forces in the UK are failing to record cases. Campaigners say children remain at risk in the absence of a coordinated national response to the problem.
The BBC reported here that the Metropolitan Police said there had been 60 crimes linked to faith in London so far this year. It saw reports double from 23 in 2013 to 46 in 2014.
The NSPCC said authorities:
Need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse.
Terry Sharpe, from the Project Violet team, said cases remained small in number, but there had been a significant increase, covering a spectrum of seriousness.
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.
In another case a child was attacked by his mother, who bit him on the face and tried to smother him, because she believed he was a “witch possessed by evil spirits”.
Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said accusations were often made when families experienced problems:
Children are blamed – especially stepchildren.
She added that within churches there was often a financial motivation behind accusations.
The pastor says there’s a witch in this church today; looks around and points to a child. That means public humiliation for the family. The next step is exorcism which is not done for free. It’s a money-making scam.
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.
An NSPCC spokesman said:
While the number of child abuse cases involving witchcraft is relatively small, they often include horrifying levels of cruelty.
The authorities which deal with these dreadful crimes need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse and take action to protect children before a tragedy occurs.
Shockingly, in 2012, Islington Council in London seriously considered sending a boy, who had been taken into care, to the the Congo to be exorcised of evil spirits. It abandoned the plan after spending £4,000 to send an expert to the Congo to investigate child exorcisms.
On October 9, Radio 4 broadcast a horrifying award-winning play – Charlene James’ Cuttin’ It – which looked at the issue of female genital mutilation through the eyes of a young Somalian Muslim who unsuccessfully tries to to prevent her sister from being ritually mutilated at a bloody FGM ceremony in London.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake, BarrieJohn & Robert Stovold (witchcraft report).