London, United Kingdom | AFP | A British judge on Friday jailed a Ugandan woman for 11 years after she became the first person ever to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain.
A jury in February convicted the 37-year-old, who lives in east London but cannot be identified for legal reasons, of harming her then three-year-old daughter in 2017.
Imposing her prison sentence Friday at the Old Bailey, England’s central criminal court in London, judge Philippa Whipple called the convicted mother’s crime “barbaric”.
“FGM has long been against the law, and let’s be clear: FGM is a form of child abuse,” she said. “It’s a barbaric practice and a serious crime.”
Whipple added a further two years to the jail term, to run consecutively, for possessing indecent images and extreme pornography, making her total sentence 13 years.
The perpetrator’s ex-partner, a 43-year-old Ghanaian who was cleared of criminal involvement in February, was also handed a jail sentence for having indecent images.
FGM has been specifically outlawed in Britain since 1985 but previous prosecutions have never been successful.
Anti-FGM legislation was extended in 2003 and the maximum penalty is 14 years in jail.
Prosecutors have noted it is “extremely difficult” to secure evidence in such cases, given the young age and vulnerability of victims, and a reluctance to testify against their closest family.
Government figures indicate that tens of thousands of women in Britain are living with the consequences of FGM, with studies showing it is chiefly rooted in Britain’s African communities.
In the landmark case concluded on Friday, the parents brought their bleeding daughter to hospital in August 2017, with the mother claiming she had fallen from a kitchen worktop onto an open door.
But doctors found the injuries were consistent with deliberate mutilation rather than a fall.
Police found spells and curses in the mother’s home, prosecutors said during the trial.
They included two cow tongues in her freezer bound in wire, with nails and a small knife embedded in them.
There were also 40 limes which contained pieces of paper with the names of police officers and social workers involved in the case.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry told the court the young victim had recovered well but she was likely to have long-term physical and psychological damage.
The judge told the convicted mother: “You betrayed her trust in you as her protector.”
Police said the young girl had been placed with another family.