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Buck passing for failure to prosecute FGM must stop

14 March 2015

The Home Affairs Committee publishes its report 'Female genital mutilation: follow-up' on 14 March 2015, following a revisit of the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM).


Raising the profile of FGM

  • The work that has been done by the media, politicians and most importantly by survivors and campaigners has raised the profile of FGM, so that many more people are aware of this horrendous form of child abuse. However, it is still the case that there have been no successful prosecutions for FGM in the UK in the last 20 years.
  • In Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham alone, 1,500 recorded cases of FGM were recorded over the last five years, with doctors seeing six patients who have undergone the procedure each week.
  • There seems to be a chasm between the amount of reported cases and the lack of prosecutions. Someone, somewhere is not doing their job effectively.

Female genital cosmetic surgery

  • We recommend that the Government amend the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 in order to make it very clear that female genital cosmetic surgery would be a criminal offence.

Safeguarding at-risk girls

  • Not enough is being done by the Royal Colleges to encourage their members to report cases of FGM. Given the recent prosecution there may be an even greater reluctance to do so, however, we consider that it is imperative that the Royal College of GPs inform every single doctor about this practice and give them an indication of where adequate training can be provided.

Recent Government action

  • We welcome the provision in the Serious Crime Act to introduce mandatory reporting of FGM, by healthcare professionals, teachers and social care workers, to the police. However, it remains unclear what would happen in the event that a professional should fail to make a report. We recommend that the Government set out the sanctions that may apply when a professional has failed to meet their duty, which should range from compulsory training to a criminal offence for intentional or repeated failures.
  • The Government needs to be aware of the impact that its decisions have on FGM campaigners within practicing communities. We recommend the establishment of an advisory panel of FGM campaigners, which should be consulted before any major policy decisions are taken and also act as a sounding board to ensure that sufficient action is taken.

Chair's comments

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"FGM is an ongoing national scandal which is likely to have resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls.  Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK.

In our report last year, we called for immediate action. In that time there have not been any successful prosecutions, and the number of referrals to the police has barely increased. This record is lamentable. The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) informed the Committee that she could only prosecute on the basis of evidence, the police said that they could only investigate on the basis of referral, and the health professionals told us that they could not refer cases because their members were not fully trained and aware of the procedure. While agencies play pass the parcel of responsibility, young girls are being mutilated every hour of every day. This is deplorable. This barbaric crime which is committed daily on such a huge scale across the UK cannot continue to go unpunished.

The law relating to female genital cosmetic surgery is ambiguous and must be clarified. We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted on Harley Street. Doctors are on the front line. Their professional organisations must do more to encourage their members to report cases of FGM. Without their active reporting of these cases, the full extent of FGM will remain hidden."

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