Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 19:45 UK

Pagan police get solstice leave

The summer solstice at Stonehenge
Pagan officers will be able to join revellers at Stonehenge

Pagan police officers in some areas are being allowed to take as many as eight days leave a year for events such as the summer solstice and Halloween.

It comes after the Pagan Police Association was set up following discussions with Home Office officials.

Policy on police leave varies between forces in England and Wales.

Hertfordshire Police lets Pagan staff re-allocate the traditional bank holidays to meet their beliefs - it has also appointed two Pagan chaplains.

Pc Andy Pardy, a Pagan neighbourhood beat officer in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, was one of the officers involved in setting up the association.


He told Police Review: "Paganism is not the new age, tree-hugging fad that some people think it is.

"It is not the clandestine, horrible, evil thing that people think it is. A lot of people think it is about dancing naked around a fire.

"But the rituals involve chanting, music and meditation. For Pagans, the practices are seen to have the same power as prayer does for Christians."

Pc Pardy is allowed to take eight days per year for Pagan events - which form part of his annual leave.

Pagans worship nature and believe in many gods and their practices include witchcraft and druidism.

According to the Office for National Statistics there were 31,000 people practising Paganism in England and Wales in 2001.

Another officer, Pc Andy Hill, of Staffordshire Police, is a practising Wiccan - a kind of Pagan witch.

Healing spells

This is nothing to do with black magic or devil worshipping. Witchcraft is not the hocus pocus, puff of smoke, turning people into frogs stuff you see on television
PC Andy Hill

He has offered to use spells to give fellow officers a helping hand with promotion exams or to heal ill colleagues and is the founder of the Pagan Police Group UK, a website for Pagan police officers and their families.

He told Police Review: "Wiccan has always been a bit of a taboo religion, there are lots of misconceptions about it.

"This is nothing to do with black magic or devil worshipping. Witchcraft is not the hocus pocus, puff of smoke, turning people into frogs stuff you see on television. It is working with nature for good."

Superintendent Simon Hawkins, of Hertfordshire Police, said: "While balancing operational needs, the force's religion and beliefs policy gives all staff the choice of re-allocating the traditional Christian bank holiday festivals to suit their personal faith beliefs and this has been very well-received from a number of faith groups including Muslim and Jewish.

No public funding

"The force strives to provide a receptive environment for all its staff and our faith work stream is a positive example of our commitment to meet the diverse needs of all who work for us and the public we serve."

A Home Office spokesman said: the Pagan Police Association did not receive any funding from the Home Office.

He added: "The government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.

"It is down to individual forces to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the religion or beliefs of individual officers, as far as operational requirements permit."

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