Police in London will receive training on helping children accused of witchcraft and sorcery, with plans to expand the training nationwide if it proves effective.
Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, head of the Metropolitan Police's Religious Violence Unit, said officers on the street were rarely equipped to spot the signs that a child might be in danger.
"We're very well aware that usually the first person on scene is going to be the young cop with two or three years' service who probably has no understanding of this whatsoever," he said.
"We're not naive enough to think this is just happening in London. It is happening in Birmingham, it's happening in Leeds, Manchester and other big cities across the country."
The 28-year veteran of the Met is an expert on child abuse investigations and heads Project Violet, a unit specifically set up to tackle religiously motivated violence.
He was speaking following the conviction last month of a woman and her boyfriend who beat 15-year-old Kristy Bamu to death because they believed he was a witch.
The case shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the prevalence of the belief in sorcery within some immigrant communities, and raised questions about whether authorities were doing enough to tackle such abuses. Senior officers admit the crime is under-reported and are trying to examine ways to encourage victims to come forward.
Project Violet has put together a booklet which will be circulated to all police officers in London, and recruits at Hendon Police College will be given extra training. The booklet details the kind of language and terms used by people who accuse others of sorcery.
In June the Department of Education will roll out a "national action plan" to encourage police, teachers, social workers and medical professionals to take a more proactive role in looking out for witchcraft victims.Reuse content