DATELINE: LONDON (AP) April 15, 1988 Witchcraft is sweeping Britain and must be outlawed s

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DATELINE: LONDON (AP) April 15, 1988 Witchcraft is sweeping Britain and must be outlawed so British children don't fall into the "sordid, sexual and diabolical grasp" of those who practice it, a lawmaker told the House of Commons. Geoffrey Dickens, of the governing Conservative Party, asserted Thursday that many people convicted of child abuse had been involved in witchcraft initiation ceremonies. "People laughed when I spoke nine years ago about child abuse. Most people are listening now," said Dickens, asking for a debate on the subject. "I now warn the House witchcraft is sweeping the country." His comments were met with laughter from other lawmakers. House leader John Wakeham rejected the call for a debate but urged Dickens to pursue the subjects he thought important. Later, Dickens said he would urge the introduction of legislation banning witchcraft, with prison sentences for offenders. "These are extremely devious, evil people," he said. "If we are to protect children from their sordid, sexual and diabolical grasp we must bring in new laws to wipe witches off the face of the earth." He said he had evidence that a vicar in northern England had surveyed 300 14-year-old pupils, and 87 percent had said they had dabbled in the occult. "I have not gone mad," he said. "This is a serious and growing problem which must be exorcised." The crime of witchcraft was abolished in 1951 with the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act.

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