The government has been forced to admit that it has invoked the Witchcraft Acts in its war against terror after it emerged that the nineteen illegal Chinese immigrants who recently drowned near Morecombe whilst working as cockle-pickers were not, as originally reported, the victims of treacherous tides and sands, but had actually died after being ‘ducked’ during an interrogation. “It’s true, we did get the police to round them up as terror suspects, then determine their guilt by seeing whether or not they floated when thrown into the sea,” admitted Home Office spokesperson Judy Banbury, responding to local newspaper reports that a group of men in puritan hats waving crucifixes and flaming torches had been seen holding the Chinese cockle-pickers’ heads under the water. “But look at it this way, the good news is that they drowned, so they obviously weren’t witches or terrorists, so at least their immortal souls will be saved!” The innovative use of the centuries old Witchcraft Acts is believed to be the brainchild of God fearing Home Secretary David Blunkett. “In line with the Prime Minister’s stated policy of allowing Ministers’ religious and moral beliefs guide their policy decisions, Mr Blunkett fell back on his own deep Christian faith and realised that the kind of people who commit these terrible terrorist atrocities cannot be normal decent Christians, but rather Godless and possessed of pure evil,” explains Banbury. “Not only that, but it’s quite obvious that they must be able to draw on supernatural powers – how else can they keep evading our security measures and blowing things up?”

According to the Home Office, the classification of terrorists as witches brings many advantages, particularly ease of identification – police are currently being trained to strip-search suspects for the mark of the Devil, whilst immigration officers at Dover have already detained a group of suspect foreign witches for “speaking in tongues”. Other tests are rumoured to include seeing if the suspect recoils from the sight of the cross or holy water. Indeed, the government is already planning to erect huge crucifixes on public buildings, skyscrapers and at airports in order to defend them from occult attacks by terrorist sorcerers. The Home Office has also advised the public to be vigilant and on the alert for the witches amongst us. “Basically, if you see any non-Christian looking strangers hanging around, or you have neighbours who don’t go to church, or perhaps are just ugly and covered with facial warts, report them to your local witch finder immediately,” says Banbury. “Remember, these evildoers will usually look just like you or me, their behaviour may not seem overtly evil, just eccentric. So, if you have friends who cavort around their garden naked, they might not be superannuated hippies, but actually performing a Black Mass! And that batty old lady who talks to her cat – she could actually be communing with her familiar! Beware!”

It is believed that over a hundred people have already been detained under these measures, with witnesses speaking of hooded figures bundling alleged ‘witches’ into the backs of vans in dead of night and rumours of secret ‘torture chambers’ being set up for interrogations. “The beauty of using the Witchcraft Acts is that once a suspect has been accused of being a witch, then they are technically, not a normal mortal human being, but a supernatural entity who has sold their soul to Satan in exchange for magical powers. Consequently, we can circumvent the provisions of the Human Rights Act relating to fair trials, torture and right to life,” explains Home Office legal advisor Toby Keel. “This approach has proven very successful in ‘persuading’ some of the initial detainees to name other members of their terrorist covens. We’ve uncovered a vast network of evil operating in the heart of England!”

In keeping with the government’s policies on ‘Private-Public’ initiatives to fund improvements in public services, many of the witch finding activities are being contracted out to private witch finders and vampire hunters. The Sleaze has also learned that secret trials are being held for these suspects at locations up and down the country. Under the Witchcraft Acts the Home Secretary is able to appoint judge, prosecutor and defence counsels in these trials, which are held without juries. Indeed it is rumoured that Blunkett himself has presided over many of these trials, appointing his guide dog as prosecution counsel and a hat-stand for the defence. “Obviously I cannot confirm or deny such reports but, well, justice is blind, so who better than Mr Blunkett to preside over such deliberations,” says Keel. “Let’s just say that his combination of devout Christian faith and lack of sight would make him ideally suited to resist the magical distractions of these devils!” According to official sources, the first group of terrorists to have been convicted in a series of secretly held witch trials are due to be publicly burnt at the stake in Hyde Park next Monday. “As they aren’t actually human, then this punishment cannot be said to constitute the death penalty – they are already undead,” says Keel in reply to complaints from human rights protestors that Britain abolished the death penalty some forty years ago and that such sentences would be illegal.

Many commentators remain sceptical as to the government’s equation of terrorism with witchcraft. “If these terrorists are all witches, why do they keep grounding those airline flights because of suspicious passengers? Why would a terrorist witch need to fly by an airline? Surely they’d just use their broomsticks,” reasons Terrorism expert Professor Peter Tench. “In fact, they wouldn’t need to use explosives, or chemical or biological weapons – they could just turn us all into frogs, or blight our crops and make our cattle go lame, that sort of thing.” Nevertheless, the government remains adamant that the forces of terror and the forces of darkness are one and the same. “How else do you explain the mysterious disappearance of Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, eh? Clearly they were either spirited away or rendered invisible by his sorcerers,” says a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.

However, there are growing suspicions amongst the electorate that the government itself may have been dabbling in black magic, with tales of pre-Iraq War intelligence assessments being based upon readings of chicken entrails, and even some wild suggestions that the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly could actually have been the result of a ritual sacrifice rather than suicide. The most serious allegations are being levelled at Home Secretary David Blunkett, with rumours that his guide dog is actually his familiar. “He’s been heard conversing with it,” claims white witch and anti-war campaigner Doris Pipe. “It’s said that at the witchcraft trials he asks it for advice on his judgements and it replies – one bark for a guilty verdict, two for not guilty!” Home Office spokesperson Judy Banbury refused to reply to these allegations at a recent press conference, preferring instead to give journalists the evil eye.