The Central Criminal Court confirmed to CNN that a 37-year-old Ugandan mother of three who resides in London has become the first person to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK, in a landmark verdict given at the Old Bailey.
According to London’s Metropolitan Police she has been remanded in custody as she awaits sentencing on 8 March 2019. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and carries a sentence of up to 14 years.
Police said in a statement that the case began when the victim was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital in northeast London for severe bleeding. Doctors who alerted the police confirmed that her injuries were consistent with a scalpel cut.
A statement from the victim’s older brother details that he saw his sister crying and “blood dripping on the floor”. The victim herself also told a foster care worker that she had been held down and cut.
Despite these statements and evidence, UK’s Press Association (PA) news agency reported that the woman in question and her Ghanaian partner have denied both the charge of performing FGM and of failing to protect a girl from the risk of genital mutilation. Her partner has been acquitted of all charges.
The woman claimed that her daughter, then aged three, “fell on metal and it ripped her private parts”, allegedly after she had climbed to get a biscuit.
Although only three other cases of FGM have been brought to trial in the UK, all of which ended in acquittal, 298 prevention orders have been successfully put in place to protect at-risk children.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the conviction sent “a clear message to those who practice this barbaric act”.
“Every woman and girl should be safe and feel safe wherever they are in London, and we will continue our fight to end FGM with every power we have,” he added
Lynette Woodrow, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), told the BBC that the “sickening” offence had been committed against a victim with “no power to resist or fight back”.
“We can only imagine how much pain this vulnerable young girl suffered and how terrified she was,” she said. “Her mother then coached her to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught, but this ultimately failed.”
Sajid Javid, the UK’s Home Secretary, celebrated the conviction on Twitter:
I welcome this landmark conviction. Female Genital Mutilation is a sickening, depraved, form of child abuse & we will do all we can to ensure all perpetrators are brought to justice https://t.co/Rbb3sbGGEv
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) February 1, 2019
Female Genital Mutilation is child abuse and only by raising awareness & ending the silence about it can we stop it. That's why if you're concerned about a child you can contact our FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email [email protected] pic.twitter.com/1VAWLSYrzt
— NSPCC (@NSPCC) February 1, 2019
Today, a mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person in the UK to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM).
— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) February 1, 2019
Nimco Ali, the co-founder of Daughters of Eve, a charity dedicated to ending FGM, also tweeted:
We have the first ever conviction for #FGM. I am so heartbroken we let this girl down but we have now given her some justice. To all those who say FGM is not an issue or it’s your culture be on notice that we will seek to do whatever we can to protect girls.
— Nimco Ali 🔻 (@NimkoAli) February 1, 2019