Real life Sister Act: Nuns in London have joined forces with police to uncover slavery and trafficking
Real life Sister Act: Nuns in London have joined forces with police to uncover slavery and trafficking in sting where detectives secured help after secret meeting with Pope
Metropolitan Police has found 250 victims with help of 450 Spanish nuns
- Sisters go on raids in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster with officers
Communicate with the trafficked or exploited women then house them
- Pope Francis has hailed scheme as model for forces worldwide
To most, Sister Act is a feel-good musical comedy which sees nuns combat crime in San Francisco.
But it seems the 90s blockbuster may also be the inspiration for London's latest approach to tackling slavery and trafficking.
Drafting in more than 450 nuns from a Spanish order, the Metropolitan Police Force has uncovered 250 kidnapped women in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster over the past year.
Inspiration? Whoopi Goldberg's 1992 film follows nuns fighting crime - a scheme now adopted by Lond
The European-funded scheme has been backed by Pope Francis, who met with Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Hyland on April 11.
Describing the unusual move, DCI Hyland said: 'Women from religious orders are in our cars on operations, at the coal face, on the front line.
'The nuns come out with us. We make sure the premises are safe, then the victims are taken to the houses of the nuns.'
Experts have found victims are reluctant to interact with police as they are made to believe officers will beat them.
More than 450 nuns from a London-based Spanish order have joined the Metropolitan Police Force
Pope Francis (left) has given it his backing after meeting with senior officers. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (right), the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the pontiff's backing is invaluable support for the scheme
SISTER ACT... THE MOVIE: THE ORIGINAL CRIME-FIGHTERS
With the help of plain-clothed nuns, many of whom speak Spanish, officers can communicate more effectively with the women.
The sisters, mostly from South America, Spain and India, have been accompanying officers on late-night raids since January 2013.
Plans are now being drafted to roll out the scheme across Britain following the unexpected results.
Pope Francis hailed the scheme as a model for police forces worldwide.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales, the pontiff said: 'Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.'
The scheme, believed to be the first of its kind, echoes the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg classic - now a sell-out production on London's West End.
Playing a singer on the run from her mobster boyfriend, Goldberg's character Deloris Van Cartier is put under protective custody in Poor Clares convent.
For her safety, she is told to disguise herself as a nun.
Indignant, she initially objects to the simple and strict life of the convent.
But after befriending some of her fellow nuns at the piano, Deloris is inspired to use music to bring the community together.
The rest of the film is an emotional journey, following the Poor Clares sisters as they reach out to San Francisco, and work with the underprivileged teenagers at the convent school, seemingly destined for a life of crime.
Now, with the backing of the pope, cities across the world could see the format cropping up.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the pope's backing emphasises the effectiveness of the project.
'By making such a declaration it encourages governments to take this to a very high priority,' he said.
Crime-fighting: Whoopi Goldberg's character Deloris Van Cartier starts her crime-fighting project after going on the run from mobster boyfriend Vince LaRocca (centre), played by Harvey Keitel
Crowds stream in off the street after the nuns perform a rock-n-roll version of Hail Holy Queen at Sunday Mass
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, told Vatican Radio: 'What we want to do is explore the way in which the pattern of co-operation between the Church - particularly religious women.
'The Metropolitian Police is having a beneficial effect in the struggle against human trafficking.
'We want to offer what's being done in London as something of a model for co-operation in other parts of the world, especially in the big cities.'