London, United Kingdom | AFP | A Ugandan woman became the first person ever to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain when she was convicted on Friday of harming her then three-year-old daughter in 2017.
The 37-year-old, who lives in London but cannot be identified for legal reasons, wept in the dock as she was convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey in London, England’s central criminal court.
Her 43-year-old Ghanaian partner, the girl’s father, who also cannot be identified, was cleared.
FGM has been specifically outlawed in Britain since 1985 but previous prosecutions have never been successful.
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. Doctors found the injuries were consistent with deliberate mutilation rather than a fall.
Police found spells and curses in the mother’s home, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the state prosecutors in England.
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.
– ‘Cloak of secrecy’ –
Government figures indicate that tens of thousands of women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM.
Studies show FGM in Britain is chiefly rooted in its African communities.
“FGM has an appalling physical and emotional impact on victims that usually lasts their entire life,” said the CPS’s Lynette Woodrow.
“We can only imagine how much pain this vulnerable young girl suffered and how terrified she was.
“A three-year-old has no power to resist or fight back.
“Her mother then coached her to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught but this ultimately failed.
“We will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit this sickening offence.”
Anti-FGM legislation was extended in 2003 and the maximum penalty is 14 years in jail.
The CPS said it was “extremely difficult” to secure evidence in FGM cases, given the young age and vulnerability of victims, and a reluctance to testify against their closest family.
Inspector Allen Davis, the FGM lead officer for London’s Metropolitan Police said the crime was taking place “behind a cloak of secrecy”.
“This is an issue around honour and shame and we are dealing with communities that can be quite closed,” he said after the case.
He said there was “a massive barrier to people giving evidence against their mum”.
Davies added: “The young victims often have no way to speak out or may not even know what is happening to them.”
Police said the daughter had made a good recovery from her “horrific and life-changing” injuries and been placed with another family.