Police go back over cases of female genital mutilation

CPS considers using conspiracy charges against perpetrators in bid to bring first prosecution

Police and prosecutors are reviewing hundreds of historic cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in a bid to bring the first prosecution in Britain since the practice was ruled illegal in 1985. Legal experts are already examining six cases referred by police, and scores more are also being considered. Tens of thousands of women and girls in the UK are believed to have been subjected to the horrifying ordeal, which is also known as "cutting", in which the genitals of women and girls are severed by unqualified people in the belief that it will preserve the victim's virginity. It can result in infections, infertility and, in extreme cases, death.

The move follows widespread concern that UK authorities were failing to address the scandal adequately. In January, The Independent on Sunday revealed, officials were looking for alternatives after failing to bring a single prosecution in more than 25 years – while more than 100 parents and FGM "practitioners" have been convicted in France since 1988.

The review centres on cases which originally failed to meet the prosecution threshold under existing FGM laws. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is now reconsidering those cases under a variety of alternative criminal offences, including conspiracy charges and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (which established an offence of causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to die or suffer serious physical harm). A CPS spokesman said: "We have been working with police to identify the types of evidence required to support charges under other legislation, including conspiracy charges. In addition the Metropolitan Police will be looking at previous investigations of FGM with the CPS, and whether new action can be taken."

It is hoped that successful prosecutions will act as a deterrent, as well as overcoming cultural sensitivities surrounding the subject. Campaigners say it is prevalent in, but not confined to, African diaspora groups in the UK. Nimco Ali, a founder of Daughters of Eve, which campaigns against FGM and supports survivors, said: "We need to make sure there is a way for young women to come forward. People need to understand this is child abuse."

In a further bid to breach the taboo surrounding the subject, the popular BBC 1 TV hospital drama Casualty last night introduced a storyline which deals with the controversial subject. Scriptwriters on the series worked with FGM pressure groups and young girls to produce the two-part drama, which concludes next Saturday.

The need to combat these agonising procedures was reinforced in a recent European report, which warned that 30,000 women and girls were judged to be still at risk in Britain – the highest number in Europe. The report, by the European Institute for Gender Equality, showed the UK also had the most women – nearly 66,000 – who had suffered FGM.

Efua Dorkenoo, advocacy director of Equality Now, which has been campaigning against FGM for decades, said this latest step was an important development. She said: "We have been looking at what aspects of the law can be used. What we have to do is take away the burden from the children to the parents. Children are not going to come forward with information; we have to get the parents to act."

Jane Ellison, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on FGM, said: "At present anti-FGM laws are not respected by all, but I believe even one successful prosecution could change that. I am glad, however, that the CPS is also looking at using other laws."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project