Child abuse
Met Police investigated 27 allegations of ritual abuse in the past yearGetty

A pastor swinging a child and banging their head to drive out the devil is one of 27 "horrific" child abuse incidents "linked to belief" the Met Police has investigated over the past year, it has emerged.

Other examples of removing evil spirits include dunking children in a bath, forcing an infant to drink unknown substances and rubbing chilli peppers into a child's eyes.

One case even involved parents removing their children from school to attend an exorcism ceremony in the country.

Out of the 27 investigations ranging from child neglect to sexual assault offences, two cases resulted in an arrest for rape and one being charged for rape.

"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths. A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for,"
said Terry Sharpe, detective superintendent from the Met's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command.

The Met Police has launched a special conference today (8 October) at City Hall to raise awareness about ritual child abuse in partnership with the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS). Officers believe it is a crime kept hidden within families and faith communities, which can be prevented through better partnership working with the community.

There will be a DVD, commissioned by the Met's Project Violet team in conjunction with CCPAS, advising how to recognise the signs that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, harm from abuse linked to witchcraft and spirit possession.

"Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.

"Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place.

"This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community. Project Violet aims to build trust with communities and emphasise that child protection is everyone's responsibility."

Simon Bass, CEO of CCPAS, said: "CCPAS continues to work with churches to address all aspects of safeguarding, including abuse linked to faith or belief. We are therefore not remotely surprised that the MPS alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year.

"We are pleased that the MPS has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations - which is why we are so pleased that this new DVD is set to be a major new weapon in the ongoing fight to eradicate this type of abuse.

"This is because it will not only educate both front-line practitioners and churches better but it will also emphasise that the only effective way to tackle it is by working together, as per the National Action Plan."