A mother has been found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM), in the first ever FGM conviction in the UK secured after a long and complex Met Police investigation.
A 37-year-old woman, who cannot be named, was found guilty of FGM under Section 1 of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, on Friday, 1 February after a trial which started at the Old Bailey on Monday, 14 January.
She will be sentenced at the same court on Friday, 8 March.
Her co-defendant, a 43-year-old man, was found not guilty of the same offence.
The woman and her co-defendant, her former partner, were arrested after they brought their daughter, aged three, to hospital over the 2017 August Bank Holiday with serious injuries which doctors later said were consistent with FGM.
In a 999 call and in subsequent accounts given to officers, the mother said that the victim injured herself after falling onto an open kitchen cupboard door from a counter top at her home.
This version of events was later discredited by medical professionals who assessed the girl’s injuries and determined that they could not have been caused in this way.
The victim gave the same account to officers during video-recorded interviews, but she later told a foster carer that she had been held down and cut.
The court heard that the injuries were deliberately inflicted by someone using a very sharp implement in the 12 hours before the girl was taken to hospital.
Two cow’s tongues with nails through them, and 40 limes containing messages on small pieces of paper were found in a freezer at the mother’s home after her arrest, in what was said to be linked to a witchcraft spell or practice against people connected with the investigation.
Excerpts from the handwritten text in the messages are as follows:
- "I freeze your mouth, don’t ever talk about me, shut up shut up shut up”
- "I freeze u mouth never to talk about me mention anything about me"
- "To everyone who I don't know who talk about I have freezed u mouths"
- "I freeze u lips u words everything you say about me"
The investigation was led by Detective Sergeant Mark Anderson, Detective Sergeant Lauren Brady, Detective Constable Laura Welham and Detective Constable Mark Crane of the Met’s Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command.
The mother was interviewed several times after their arrest, and denied any involvement. Charges were authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions in August 2018.
During the trial, the mother maintained that the injuries had been caused by the girl falling.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Baker of the Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command, said: “This was a complex, sensitive investigation with a harrowing crime committed by this defendant.
“We cannot lose sight that this case is about a very young girl who was the victim of an illegal, horrific and life-changing act at the hands of her mother.
“I would like to acknowledge the bravery she and her sibling have shown since the offence was committed.
“An array of evidence – witness accounts, and medical and forensic evidence - which showed that FGM was the cause of the girl’s horrific injuries was painstakingly built, and this evidence was presented to a jury who after careful deliberation has found this woman guilty of FGM."
Inspector Allen Davis, the Met’s lead officer for FGM, said: “It is significant that this is the first FGM conviction in the UK and I hope this sends out a clear message that the Met and other partner agencies will thoroughly investigate FGM cases and pursue prosecutions, whilst offering full support to victims and affected parties.
“However, our work to tackle FGM doesn’t stop. FGM remains a grave concern shared by police and other agencies which safeguard children, and we are determined to amplify our efforts to end FGM, and build on this successful prosecution to safeguard more young people at risk of this dangerous, illegal practice.
“This case demonstrates that FGM is still happening across London and the UK, behind a cloak of secrecy. The young victims often have no way to speak out or may not even know what is happening to them.
“We work closely with partner agencies to identify safeguarding risks related to FGM, but we really need information from people in communities who know FGM is happening – which young people are at risk, and who is doing the cutting.”
If you know someone who you believe to be at immediate risk of FGM, call 999 immediately. If you have concerns about the welfare of any young person, or you have information about FGM-related offending, you can call police or the NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550.