First person convicted of FGM receives 13-year jail term

A mother has been jailed for 13 years after becoming the first person to be convicted of "barbaric" Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The 37-year-old Ugandan woman was found guilty of cutting her three-year-old daughter despite deploying witchcraft to "shut up" her accusers.

Her former partner, a 43-year-old Ghanaian, was cleared of involvement in the offence in August 2017.

On Friday – International Women's Day – the mother, from Walthamstow, east London, appeared to be sentenced.

Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC told the court the young victim had recovered well but she was likely to have reduced sexual sensation in the future and long-term psychological damage.

Mrs Justice Whipple jailed the woman for 11 years for FGM plus two further years for indecent images and extreme pornography.

FGM court case
FGM court case

She said: "FGM has long been against the law and let's be clear FGM is a form of child abuse.

"It's a barbaric practice and a serious crime. It's an offence which targets women, particularly inflicted when they are young and vulnerable."

The judge said it was not known why the woman inflicted FGM on her child, contrary to her culture, although witchcraft was a possibility.

On the psychological effect on the victim, she the told defendant: "This is a significant and life long burden for her to carry.

"You betrayed her trust in you as her protector."

The trial had heard how the girl was subjected to "deliberate cutting with a sharp instrument" at her mother's dirty home, the court heard.

Medics raised the alarm after she was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital with severe bleeding.

Authorities were told the child had been reaching for a biscuit when she fell and cut herself on the edge of a kitchen cupboard.

But the victim later confided in specially trained officers that she had been cut by a "witch".

While the defendants were on bail, police searched the unemployed mother's home and found evidence of witchcraft.

Ms Carberry had 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.

"The names embedded included both police officers involved in the investigation of the case, the social worker, her own son and the then director of public prosecutions.

"These people were to 'shut up' and 'freeze their mouths'. There was a jar with a picture of a social worker in pepper found hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom. Another spell was hidden under the bed."

FGM court case
FGM court case

Giving evidence, the mother, who has previous convictions for benefits fraud, denied cutting her daughter, saying: "It's a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child's private parts, they're not human. I'm not like that."

A jury at the Old Bailey rejected her explanation and found her guilty of FGM in February.

Mitigating, Natasha Wong QC said the child had not been subject to an FGM protection order, adding: "Things may have been a lot worse if she had not been taken to hospital."

The mother had been threatened during her time in custody meaning her sentence would be harder, she said.

During the sentencing hearing, the mother also admitted having indecent pictures of a child, publishing videos of sexual activity with a dog and a snake and possessing extreme pornographic images.

Her sentences for those offences will run consecutively to the FGM term.

Her former partner pleaded guilty to two charges of possession of an indecent image of a child and two charges of possessing extreme images showing people having sex with a horse and snake.

Mrs Justice Whipple sentenced him to 11 months in prison, although he has already served his time on remand.

The court heard it would be up to the Home Office to decide whether to allow him to continue living in Britain.

Ox tongues with screws embedded in them
Ox tongues with screws embedded in them

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC's Childline, said: "This landmark case sends a very clear message that FGM will not be tolerated in this country under any circumstances.

"Some cultures consider FGM a necessary part of bringing up a young girl. There may even be pressures for families to conform. The truth is it is a horrific form of child abuse and a criminal offence which has no place in today's society.

"If we want to protect girls from this dangerous and potentially life changing practice we need to talk about FGM, encourage people to seek help and advice and report any concerns if they believe a child has been cut or is about to be."

Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, which is run as a partnership between Barnardo's and the Local Government Association, said: "The first person to be convicted and sentenced for FGM is truly a watershed moment and sends a strong message to society that this crime will not be tolerated and offenders will be held accountable.

"It has caused shockwaves in communities which practise FGM and we hope that this prison term will act as a deterrent, while encouraging other survivors to come forward to seek support.