MPs condemn 'lamentable' absence of convictions for female genital mutilation

The failure to secure a single conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM) has been condemned by MPs as "lamentable".

A new report from the Commons Home Affairs Committee said the absence of a successful prosecution for an FGM offence as "beyond belief", with MPs warning that the "hidden crime" was a "national scandal".

FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but it was 30 years before the first and only prosecution was brought to trial. Both defendants in the case were cleared last year.

"That is a lamentable record and the failure to identify cases, to prosecute and to achieve convictions can only have negative consequences for those who are brave enough to come forward to highlight this crime," the report said.

"In the absence of successful prosecutions, FGM remains a national scandal that is continuing to result in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls."

A man wears a T-shirt promoting an anti-FGM campaign. Credit: Reuters

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Approximately 137,000 women and girls living in England and Wales in 2011 were affected by FGM, and MPs said the procedure is practiced in some communities on a daily basis.

Under laws rolled out last year, doctors, nurses and teachers have a mandatory duty to report FGM cases in females aged under 18.

MPs supported the measure, but said existing disciplinary procedures for ignoring the duty were "insufficient and ineffective", and called for stronger sanctions.

The committee recommended adopting an approach used in France, where routine medical examinations of children under six is believed to have resulted in a large number of successful FGM prosecutions.

The committee welcomed efforts to protect girls at risk of being taken abroad to undergo FGM, but warned that better intelligence must be provided to officers.

Safeguarding Minister Sarah Newton said anti-FGM laws are being strengthened. Credit: PA Wire

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: "Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent and damaging practice and like all agencies involved, we are determined to hold those responsible to account.

"Prosecutors work closely with police, offering advice on their investigations, but when a case is referred to the CPS, a prosecution can only be brought where there is sufficient evidence to meet the evidential stage of the Full Code Test."

Safeguarding Minister Sarah Newton said the government is strengthening the law to improve protection for those at risk of FGM and remove barriers to prosecution.

She added: "This government has introduced FGM protection orders, a new offence of failing to protect a girl from FGM, a mandatory reporting duty for frontline professionals, new guidance for the police, and lifelong anonymity for victims to encourage them to come forward."