Adults with witchcraft and demonic possession beliefs are abusing almost 1,500 children a year, new Government statistics have revealed.

1,460 child abuse cases in England last year were "linked to faith and belief", according to the latest figures released by the Department of Education, the first Government statistics on the issue.

310 of the cases took place in the North West, 240 in London and 220 in the West Midlands.

Lancashire recorded the most cases of any local authority, with 86 cases linked to beliefs in witchcraft and demonic possession.

Charities have warned that in reality figures are likely to be higher because authorities are often unable to recognise signs of abuse.

Justin Humphreys, executive director of safeguarding at the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service, said the initial figures highlighted the increase in the number of children abused to "get the devil out of them."

"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," he told the Church Times.

The scale of the issue has not been revealed until now, due to statistics being withheld by police, when requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The most recent police statistics, released in 2014, showed that the force had dealt with 148 cases since 2004, according to the Daily Telegraph. But the new government figures show that the problem is more widespread than initially thought.

The Government launched Project Violet, national plan to tackle the "concerning" number of cases linked to witchcraft and exorcism after 15-year-old Kristy Bamu was tortured and drowned by his sister Magalie and her boyfriend Eric Bikubi who accused him of being a witch.

The boy drowned in the bath following an exorcism. Bamu and Bikubi were both jailed for life.

Humphreys said the plan was not receiving enough attention and that the Government had "pretty much withdrawn any tangible support" for the issue.

A Government spokesperson said: "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."

Accused of witchcraft
Kristy Bamu, 15, was tortured to death and drowned over claims of practising witchcraft Met Police