People who commit female genital mutilation are more likely to face charges after prosecutors announced plans to address Britain’s dismal record at bringing perpetrators to justice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) was made a criminal offence in Britain 27 years ago but there has never been a single successful prosecution.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, yesterday launched a plan he hopes will increase the number of referrals to police and prosecutors, and improve evidence gathering. His proposals include learning from countries such as France and Holland where people have been successfully prosecuted, and better analysis of failed cases from the UK. A steering group will consider whether a change in legislation is needed or whether existing laws could be better used.
Home Office figures suggest that 24,000 school-aged girls in Britain are at risk at any one time. The school holidays are considered the riskiest time for potential child victims in the UK as families have traditionally flown back to countries of origin where the FGM takes place.
The few midwives and doctors who run specialist clinics for women suffering the physical and psychological consequences of FGM see hundreds of women every year.
Yet the three cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in the past two years never made it to court because of difficulties over evidence.
Mr Starmer said: “Everyone who can play a part in stopping FGM – from the doctor with a suspicion to the police officer investigating the initial complaint – needs to know what to do to improve detection rates, strengthen investigations and start getting these offenders into court. I am determined the CPS should play a key role in ensuring that the impunity with which these offenders have acted will end.”