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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 15:34 GMT
Advice on spotting ritual abuse
Victoria Climbie, murdered in 2000
Murdered Victoria Climbie's aunt believed she was possessed
Childcare professionals are being given advice on how to identify children who are being abused by people because they are thought to be possessed.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes has issued the advice following a number of high-profile cases, such as the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

She was killed by her aunt in 2000 after members of her local church believed she was possessed.

The BBC's Kim Catcheside said bringing perpetrators to justice was difficult.

The social affairs correspondent added that cases of ritual abuse were rare but deeply damaging to children.

Abuse indicators

In another case, an eight-year-old girl who was brought to east London from Angola, was beaten and cut with knives after she was accused of being a witch in 2005.

The proposed guidelines are at the consultation stage and have been published on the Department for Education website for childcare professionals to look at and make their comments.

Those working with children have been asked to look out for various indicators of physical or emotional abuse and whether children have been taken out of school with no other school place being secured.

Last month the Met Police told the BBC they were unable to charge an African pastor, who allegedly accused children of witchcraft, because it is not against the law. Pastor Dieudonne Tukala was arrested on suspicion of inciting child cruelty last January following an investigation by BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Dr Tukala denied accusing children of witchcraft despite video evidence showing him doing so in a service.

Campaigners have said it should be a criminal offence to demonise a child.

John Azah, who advises the Metropolitan Police on ritual practices, said religious groups that could be encouraging the practice should be monitored.


SEE ALSO
Child protection website launched
01 Feb 07 |  Bristol/Somerset

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