Two 40-year-old parents of Nigerian origin were jailed for seven years each yesterday, for heaping ten years of abuse onto their six children; claiming they were possessed by ‘evil spirits’.
The Daily Mail reports that the couple were both found guilty of cruelty to a person under 16 at Wood Green Crown Court. The cruelty in question included beating their children with brooms, cables and a hoover, tying them up as punishment, and neglecting to feed them.
The parents, who have not been named in order to protect the children, denied the allegations and accused Haringey council and the police of brainwashing their children in order to bring the prosecution.
The couple also claimed they were victims of racism by the authorities, but these arguments were rejected by the jurors.
The abuse first came to light in April 2010, when their eldest daughter, who was nine years old, threw an SOS note out of her bedroom window. There was an investigation by the authorities, and the five elder children were taken into care.
However, no legal action was taken until June last year, when the one-year-old youngest child still at home was given a morphine overdose by the couple.
Judge John Patrick described their crime as ‘shocking mistreatment’ and said they had tried to cover it up with a ‘web of deception’, the Mail reports.
This case highlights a problem that the Government has pledged to tackle, according to BBC News, namely child abuse linked to a belief in spirits, witchcraft or possession. Scotland Yard has conducted 83 investigations into cases of faith-based child abuse in the last ten years, but they believe there could be many more.
A National Action Plan to Tackle Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief has been drawn up after consultation with faith leaders, children’s charities, the police and social workers.
It is to be hoped that bringing this problem more into the open, by educating community workers and teachers to recognise the signs of such abuse, for example, will encourage victims to come forward more readily.