Mother who hired 'witch' to mutilate her three-year-old daughter becomes first person convicted of FGM in the UK
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Mother who hired 'witch' to mutilate her three-year-old daughter becomes first person convicted of FGM in the UK

A UGANDAN WOMAN has been found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the first successful prosecution of its kind in British legal history.

The 37-year-old was convicted at the Old Bailey on Friday after being accused of hiring a 'witch' to cut her own three-year-old daughter.

The girl, now five, told police she was pinned down and forcibly mutilated at her mother's home in Walthamstow, east London in the summer of 2017.

The woman's Ghanaian partner, 43, also stood accused of the same offence but was cleared of all charges today.

Neither parent can be named for legal reasons.

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Spells and curses 

During the trial, the Old Bailey heard how the mother claimed her daughter had suffered a fall after calling emergency services when the brutal procedure went wrong.

Medics raised the alarm after taking the toddler to Whipps Cross University Hospital with severe bleeding.

The youngster was coached to tell investigators that she injured herself on a cupboard door after climbing onto a work surface to get biscuits, the court was told.

However, a surgeon found three separate sites of injury and no bruising to indicate a fall.

Police found ox tongues and evidence of spells and curses in the woman's kitchen freezer when they searched her east London home.

Caroline Carberry QC, prosecuting, said the mother had an interest in witchcraft and tried to "shut up" her accusers by "freezing their mouths".

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Her spells targeted social workers, police involved in the case and even the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders, the jury heard.

Describing the items found in the mother's freezer, Ms Carberry said: "Two cow tongues were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them.

"Forty limes were also found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them."

'No place in a civilised society'

Both defendants denied FGM and an alternative charge of failing to protect a minor from risk of genital mutilation.

The victim's father was cleared of all charges after jurors at the Old Bailey deliberated for less than a day.

The mother, who wept in court as she was found guilty, was remanded in custody to be sentenced on March 8.

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Mrs Justice Whipple warned the Ugandan national that she faced a "lengthy" jail term, telling her: "You have been found guilty of a serious offence against your daughter."

Commander Ivan Balhatchet of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said FGM has "no place in a civilised society".

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.

"I ask anyone with concerns or information to share it with us. We will treat each individual case sensitively and confidentially."

Deterrent

Leethen Bartholomew, Head of the National FGM Centre – which is run by children's charity Barnardo's – praised the young victim for her courage in helping investigators.

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"The effects of female genital mutilation have a life-long impact on survivors both physically and psychologically, so it is vital support is in place for her for as long as she needs it," he said.

"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."

Female genital mutilation has been a specific offence in the UK since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985.

The 1985 Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and has since been amended to include assisting and taking children to be cut abroad as the vast majority of cases involve immigrant families from Africa and Asia.

Three previous trials involving FGM – two in London and one in Bristol – all ended in acquittals, while some 298 prevention orders have been put in place to safeguard children at risk.

The vile crime carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

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