THE mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
The girl’s Ugandan mother was prosecuted under UK’s FGM laws after using a ‘witch’ to help her carry out the surgery at her home in Walthamstow, east London.
The girl, now five, told police she was pinned down while a woman they called a witch mutilated her.
The girl’s Ghanaian father, 43, was also prosecuted but was cleared of all charges at the Old Bailey today, the Daily Mail newspaper reported. Neither parent can be named for legal reasons.
The court has heard how the mutilation went wrong and emergency services were called. They were told the girl had fallen, but a surgeon found three separate sites of injury and no bruising to indicate a fall.
The girl was told to say she had injured herself on a cupboard door after climbing on to a work surface to get biscuits when she was interviewed by social workers, the Central Criminal Court, popularly known as the Old Bailey, heard.
When officers searched the mother’s home in east London, they found cows’ tongues and evidence of spells and curses in the freezer, the jury heard.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said the mother had an interest in witchcraft. Her spells targeted social workers, police in the case and even the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.
Describing the items found in the kitchen freezer, she said: ‘Two cow tongues, they were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them, 40 limes were found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them. These people were to “shut up” and “freeze their mouths”.’
The mother, who is a convicted benefits cheat, had even taken a picture of her handiwork – and sent it to a prospective boyfriend in Africa.
She wept in the dock today as she was found guilty of the charge.
Judge Mrs Justice Whipple warned of a ‘lengthy’ jail term as she remanded the woman into custody ahead of sentencing on March 8.
Giving evidence, the mother had maintained her account of an accidental injury and told jurors: ‘It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that.’
The father denied having an interest in ‘voodoo’ or ‘witchcraft’ and claimed he was outside when his daughter was hurt.
However, the court heard FGM would need more than one person to do it, although police have not identified anyone else in the case.
The father told jurors he accepted his partner’s explanation at first but now accepted she had been cut.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Baker, of the London Metropolitan Police’s child abuse and sexual offences command, said: ‘We cannot lose sight this is a case about a very young girl who was subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of two defendants, her parents.
‘I would like to acknowledge her bravery since her ordeal and I’m pleased to say she has made a very good recovery and been placed with another family.’
Baker refused to rule out the involvement of a third party in the Walthamstow case but said investigators found no evidence to present at court.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘FGM is a sickening form of child abuse that leaves innocent young victims with physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime.’
He added: ‘Let me be clear, we will not tolerate FGM and not rest until perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice.’
Deputy chief crown prosecutor Lynette Woodrow said: ‘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.’
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘Today’s landmark conviction sends a clear message to those who practice this barbaric act that it will no longer go unpunished.
‘Every woman and girl should be safe – and City Hall will continue to work with partners to end this abhorrent practice.’
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for FGM, Commander Ivan Balhatchet, said FGM has ‘no place in a civilised society’ and appealed to anyone who knows where it is taking place to come forward.
He added: ‘We have always been clear that prosecutions alone will not stop this abuse, however this guilty verdict sends a strong message that police will make every effort possible to pursue those committing this heinous crime.
‘This is the first successful prosecution for FGM in the UK and it reinforces our commitment to work with health, education, social care, affected communities and others to do more. ‘
Leethen Bartholomew head of children’s charity Barnardo’s praised the victim for assisting the investigation.
He said: ‘The effects of female genital mutilation have a lifelong impact on survivors both physically and psychologically, so it is vital support is in place for her for as long as she needs it.
‘I hope today’s verdict serves as a warning to those considering having FGM carried out on their daughter or other family member or taking her abroad to do so.
‘It is illegal and the police and the Crown Prosecution Service will do everything in their power to track down and bring to justice anyone who carries out FGM.’