Witchcraft-related child abuse on the rise in Britain, say police

LONDON (Reuters) - Instances of child abuse related to witchcraft and a belief that children are possessed by evil spirits are on the rise in Britain, police said on Wednesday.

In the past year there have been 27 reported allegations, a rise from 24 the previous year.

One case resulted in an arrest for rape and another in a charge for rape, they added.

Examples include a child who was forced to drink unknown substances, children being dunked in a bath, a pastor swinging a child around and banging its head and parents taking their children out of the country to attend an exorcism ceremony, in attempts to remove "evil spirits".

"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths," Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command said in a statement.

He was speaking ahead of a planned seminar in London on aimed at identifying and fighting faith-related child abuse.

Officers believe this form of child abuse is rarely reported and that is a hidden crime kept within families and faith communities.

"Often in the perpetrators' minds, any abuse is not going to affect the victim because he or she believes the child is effectively not there any more and the abuse is directed at whatever has possessed the child," Supt Sharpe said.

The seminar, entitled the "Witchcraft and Spirit Possession Awareness Event", was hosted by the police and the Churches'Child Protection Advisory Service on Wednesday.