Britain 'has 500 cults using mind control': Call for action to avert Waco-style tragedy

MORE than 500 cults that use mind control to recruit and keep members are operating in the United Kingdom, an anti- cult expert warned yesterday. Many are registered as religious orders, therapy groups or management training organisations, he said.

Ian Howarth, director of the Cult Information Centre in London, said that up to half a million people in Britain are, or have been, involved with a cult, yet it was still perceived as an American phenomenon.

A British tragedy similar to Waco in Texas was not so far- fetched, he said. A year ago today, more than 80 followers of David Koresh, a self-styled messiah, died - including 24 Britons - when their compound was stormed by government agents and caught fire.

'There is a great danger that many people in the UK associate cult violence with American culture and liberal gun laws. People do so at their own peril,' Mr Howarth said.

Speaking at the first conference on Cults and Counselling, at Hull University, Mr Howarth said that on a per capita basis, the growth and influence of destructive cults here is as serious as that in America, where there are 2,500 cults and between 3 and 10 million people involved. He defined a cult as a group or organisation which used any form of psychological coersion to recruit and indoctrinate people so that all previous incidences - spiritual, social, intellectual, financial - are replaced with a new set of values and explanations so that their 'reality' is changed. 'I have never met anyone who joined in a cult. They are recruited,' he said.

Mr Howarth, who is an ex- cult member, said people from every age group and background were vulnerable to cult recruitment methods. There were two main categories: cults masquerading as religious orders which tended to attract people in their early twenties; and those which offered some sort of therapeutic help for physical or mental problems and which were more popular with people in their mid-thirties or older. There was also a rising number of cults presenting themselves as management or assertive assertiveness training groups.

However, mind control techniques were remarkably similar. They include meditation, 'love bombing' - in which recruits were hugged, kissed and shown lots of affection by members - chanting and singing, sleep and food deprivation, and fatigue.

Mr Howarth, who receives up to 80 calls a week from cult members or their families seeking help, wants greater awareness of cults and mind control and better training for mental health workers to counsel former members.

Kevin McNamara, Labour's Northern Ireland spokesman, who chaired the conference attended by psychiatrists, psychologists, ex-cult members and their families, said he did not believe that Mr Howarth was exaggerating the problem. 'You only have to look at how many Britons were in Waco. Cults have slipped out of the headlines but they are still getting hold of vulnerable people when they are their lowest emotional ebb,' he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen