First UK Conviction for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Offences
A woman in London has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM), following a criminal court hearing regarding injuries to her daughter.
The defendant was convicted of mutilating her three-year-old daughter, with Mrs Justice Whipple in the Old Bailey saying that the offender would face a "lengthy" jail term. The sentence for committing FGM is a maximum of 14 years in prison. The landmark case is the fourth FGM prosecution brought to court in the UK but the first ever to result in a conviction, with all previous cases resulting in acquittals.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan celebrated the conviction, saying it sent "a clear message to those who practise this barbaric act.”
The Metropolitan Police meanwhile said they were “determined to …build on this successful prosecution to safeguard more young people at risk,” adding:
“FGM remains a grave concern shared by police and other agencies which safeguard children.”
Landmark case follows string of acquittals
Whilst the landmark ruling is the first conviction for FGM offences in the UK, the practice was criminalised in this country as long ago as 1985, with laws strengthened in 2003 and 2015.
The first case, brought to trial in 2015, resulted in an NHS doctor being acquitted of any offence in less than half an hour. Another case heard last year resulted in a judge at Bristol Crown Court ordering the jury to return a verdict of not guilty, describing aspects of the case as “deeply troubling”.
In that case, a doctor examining a suspected mutilation victim reported finding a small lesion, which she “was concerned … may represent a form of FGM.”
However, by a second examination some nine weeks later, a consultant gynaecologist could not find any evidence of injury. Avon and Somerset FGM police DCI Leanne Pook said that the force would “learn lessons” from the trial’s collapse, adding that time lapses between the medical examinations were unavoidable due to a “whole host of complexities connected with this issue.”
Instances of FGM are hard to detect due to the fact that the offence is often committed on very young children, supported by close family members, and taboos surrounding the practice prevent many victims from speaking out.
One lawyer representing FGM victims reports anecdotal evidence that type 4 FGM — where a smaller incision is made to female genitals — “is on the rise as a way of performing FGM without it being easily detectable. But, symbolically, it can still be said the woman has had FGM.”
FGM laws continue to improve
Nonetheless, campaigners hope that prosecution rates will continue to rise as recent expansions to the law on FGM crimes help secure justice.
In 2015, then Home Secretary Theresa May made FGM committed abroad against a UK resident a crime punishable in the UK under the Serious Crime Act . This effort helps bring prosecution against FGMs which may be committed abroad during the school holidays, in countries where FGM is still an accepted cultural practice. In addition, FGM Protection Orders were introduced to allow girls who have experienced FGM or are deemed at risk to be monitored, with restricted foreign travel and internet usage. Since 2015, 298 FGM protection orders have been issued.
The law also now requires anyone who works with children – including doctors – to report suspected cases of FGM to the police, where the victim is under 18. Evidential blocks to prosecution have similarly been tackled, with the law now recognising failure to protect a girl from FGM as a criminal offence. Recently, a Private Member’s Bill to cover FGM protections under family law and therefore allow family courts to place children at risk of FGM into care was proposed.
The proposal was blocked in Parliament by MP Christopher Chope, but PM Theresa May has vowed to “find time” to revive the amendment in new legislation.
Compensation for victims of FGM or female cutting
If you are a victim of FGM or female cutting, you could be entitled to compensation. The compensation could help provide the financial support for:
- obtaining specialist surgery to deal with the complications of the procedure
- obtaining psychotherapy to facilitate recovery and healing from the pain, the abuse and the physical and emotional consequences of the surgery
- obtaining physiotherapy or other medical support, for the short and long-term
For advice on making a compensation claim, please contact our child abuse and FGM compensation solicitors today. We offer a No-Win No-Fee Agreement so there is no financial risk involved if you are not successful. To discuss your case or to make an appointment please contact us on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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