A staggering 1,500 child abuse cases each year are linked to witchcraft and demonic possession, Government statistics have revealed.
The data shows there were 1,460 cases in England, which included concerns about abuse which was ‘linked to faith and belief’ during the year to March 2017.
Experts are now warning that there is an increased number of children who are being abused by adults.
Of the near 1,500 cases of abuse, 310 took place in the North West, 240 in London and 220 in the West Midlands.
One local authority in Lancashire reported 86 cases – the largest for any district, the Telegraph reports.
Of the near 1,500 cases of abuse, 310 took place in the North West, 240 in London and 220 in the West Midlands
The figure is likely to be higher as local authorities are unaware of the warning signs, charities claim.
The executive director of safeguarding at the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service told the Church Times there was a ‘limited understanding’ of warning signs.
Justin Humphreys said: ‘The data presented by the Government reflects the reports to the Education Select Committee 2012 that an increasing number of children in the UK are being harmed in the belief that “it will get the devil out of them”.
‘We should be taking this as a call to re-energise the national effort to educate communities and professionals and safeguard all our children.’
The data was previously only released by forces when pressured under the Freedom of Information act.
The Metropolitan Police released data in 2014 which showed it had dealt with 148 cases since 2004 – yet new data proves the issue is much greater than initially thought.
The Government launched a national action plan in 2012 following the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was accused of witchcraft.
His sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi drowned him in a bath on Christmas Day 2010 after he was tortured for several days. They were both jailed for life.
In 2000, Victoria Climbie was tortured and murdered by her guardians who said she was possessed. She died from hypothermia and was forced to sleep in a bath tub in her own excrement. Her body was covered in scars and bruises and led to major changes in child protection policies in the UK.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Children must be kept safe, and no belief system can justify the abuse of a child.
‘The Department for Education is investing up to £1.5 million to tackle child abuse and support charities such as Barnardo’s in their work to tackle abuse linked to faith or belief.
‘Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be subject to prosecution. Our statutory guidance is crystal clear that anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should report this to children’s social care or the police.’
Experts are now warning that there is an increased number of children who are being abused by adults