23 November 2012

CPS to grow a spine over FGM

The Guardian reports that the Crown Prosecution Service has announced that it will not be so bloody spineless over Female Genital Mutilation .  FGM has been a criminal offence for nearly 30 years for which there has never been a prosecution.

There has been growing concern that the practice continues to take place in the UK and that young girls are taken abroad by their families to undergo it. The very few attempts to bring a prosecution have all ended in failure

Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, has now published an action plan in a bid to turn the tide. "It's critical that everything possible is done to ensure we bring the people who commit these offences against young girls and women to justice and this action plan is a major step in the right direction," he said.

"Everyone who can play a part in stopping FGM – from the doctor with a suspicion that an offence has been committed and the police officer investigating the initial complaint to the prosecutor taking a charging decision – needs to know what to do to improve detection rates, strengthen investigations and, for the part of the CPS, to start getting these offenders into court. I am determined that the CPS should play a key role in ensuring that the impunity with which these offenders have acted will end."
The first step is to gather good data on the potential scale of the problem, says the CPS. It then intends to look at the allegations that have fallen by the wayside, to see what has hindered the investigation and prosecution. It will attempt to learn from prosecutions in other countries and ensure police and prosecutors work closely together from the very start of investigations.

Carrying out or assisting FGM has been a criminal offence since 1985. The law was made tougher in 2003 with the passing of the Female Genital Mutilation Act, which makes it an offence for UK citizens of permanent residents to take a child abroad for cutting, even where the practice is legal. The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.

But only three cases have ever been referred to the CPS – the first in 2010 – and not one of them made it to court. In the first case, the victim gave conflicting accounts of what happened, where it took place and who carried it out. In the second, there was an allegation that a girl was at risk, but no evidence was found to support a charge. The third was a "sting" mounted by a woman posing as the aunt of two young girls, who recorded conversations with two doctors in Birmingham who were allegedly willing to operate on them. The doctors were arrested, but the woman refused to sign the draft statement and, says the CPS, there were inconsistencies in her account.
Prosecutions for FGM are particularly difficult because they could require a girl to implicate her own parents in a crime. There are also cultural taboos and communities may stay silent or close ranks. It is also hard to obtain reliable evidence if the crime is carried out abroad.

But midwives, who often see the result of FGM in women in childbirth years later, are delighted that the CPS is taking a tougher line. Louise Silverton, director for midwifery for the Royal College of Midwives, said she warmly welcomed the groundbreaking action by the CPS. "It concerns me that so many UK midwives are seeing cases of FGM and we need to have good mechanisms in place for midwives to report and take appropriate actions about FGM. The RCM takes a zero tolerance stance on FGM and will continue to work to see this practice stopped in the UK. We look forward to continuing to work with the director for public prosecutions about the action plan," she said.

Labour MP Diane Abbott said: "I really welcome this. The issue has lurked in the shadows for too long, and I think it's got to be brought into mainstream consciousness more. About 20,000 children in England and Wales are deemed 'at risk' every year. The situation is similar in France, yet whereas some 100 parents and practitioners of this have been convicted in France, there has never been a single prosecution in the UK. I think many of the people who are affected by this are voiceless and unprotected, and we've got to do more to understand it."

ABOUT FUCKING TIME! No matter which way you look at it it is a barbaric practice that has no place in this country.


Syncopated Eyeball said...

Yes it is barbaric.

I was told that recently on a tv discussion about this, Germaine Greer said something to the effect: who are we to judge the culture and customs of others. Oh, Germaine! What has become of you?

jams o donnell said...

Whenever she appears on tv I know that she's going to be full of shit these days.

Sad to see a truly interesting figure become a figure of derision