To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 7 March (HL Deb, col 711), whether they will ask the Attorney General to invite the views of inspectorates of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service on the problems of prosecuting cases of FGM.
26 March 2019
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime and it is child abuse. The Government will not tolerate a practice which can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls. We strengthened the law in 2015, including through the introduction of Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPOs), which are often issued with the purpose of preventing FGM from happening. 296 FGMPOs were issued between Octo-ber 2015 and September 2018. The Government works closely with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ensure a robust and effective response to FGM.
Cases of FGM involving very young and vulnerable victims are among the most complex referred to the CPS. The CPS has appointed lead FGM prosecutors, and local investigation and prosecution protocols between the police and CPS are in place to ensure that robust cases for prosecution are built. A joint police and CPS focus group for so-called honour-based abuse (HBA), forced marriage and FGM is pushing for continuous improvement in the handling of HBA cases and an increased level of support for complainants and witnesses.
There are a number of specific issues with the prosecution of these crimes. They can involve victims being hurt and coerced by members of their own families and communities, making it difficult for them to feel confident to report the crime. Additionally, in many instances when cases are referred to the CPS, it does not have jurisdiction to prosecute, if the procedure was carried out overseas before the victim moved to the UK. Further, medical evidence alone cannot prove all the elements of the offence.
In 2015 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report – “The depths of dishonour – Hidden voices and shameful crimes” into the police response to so-called honour-based violence, forced marriage and FGM. This made 14 recommendations for improvement. Progress against those recommendations is monitored by the Home Office, including at a meeting on 27 February 2019 of the National Oversight Group for Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment, chaired by the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability.
The Government is working with communities and stakeholders to emphasise the adverse health consequences of FGM and the fact that it is illegal, including through a recent awareness-raising campaign and through ongoing outreach work by the Home Office’s FGM Unit.