Doctors are still failing to report suspected cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) to the police, a senior Scotland Yard officer has warned.
Detective Superintendent Jason Ashwood, head of Scotland Yard's FGM team, told The Times that young girls who are at risk of or are recovering from cutting are being let down because “professionals” in the public sector are not safeguarding children.
The latest figures suggest that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM and 23,000 girls under the age of 15 are “at risk”.
His calls for tougher action mark the United Nation's annual day of zero tolerance to FGM.
Mr Ashwood told The Times: “I can hardly think of an example of a doctor calling up to say, ”'I have someone (with FGM) with me in A&E, please can you send an officer'. That just does not happen.
“It's clear when professionals are seeing people who are survivors or at risk of FGM, it's not being referred to police.
”What we need is to get our people in the public sector to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.
“It's child abuse. Police are just at the end of the line of the process. You can only react to what you find, and what you are told.”
However, research by a women's rights charity suggests one in five police forces are neglecting to record honour-based violence incidents correctly.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO) said the failure to properly record abuse such as FGM puts the lives of other young girls at risk, particularly sisters and cousins, and stops authorities from understanding the scale of the issue.
A freedom of information request submitted to every police force in the UK by the charity found 11 forces failed to follow official guidance in reporting incidents of suspected honour-based abuse.
The director of public prosecutions in the UK insisted the Crown Prosecution Service is “raising its game” over FGM.
There have been no prosecutions for FGM, despite it being banned in the UK since 1985.
Alison Saunders told The Times: “We are really stepping up what we are doing on FGM. This is not a problem unique to London.
”I want to make sure we are there to provide advice to the police forces dealing with cases, as these are incredibly difficult to prosecute.
“This network will share information so that we are raising our game consistently across the country.”
She added that the CPS is increasingly looking at evidence secured by covert surveillance, to avoid the need for a child to testify in court - often against a family member.