13:02, February 23 245 0 theguardian.com

2018-02-23 13:02:04
UK FGM trial: father says failed case put intolerable pressure on him

A father cleared of allowing his six-year-old daughter to undergo female genital mutilation has said the failed prosecution put intolerable pressure on him and his family.

The man described the evidence against him as unsatisfactory and claimed the police and Crown Prosecution Service had important lessons to learn.

A judge at Bristol crown court halted the trial of the 29-year-old man when he ruled that he had no case to answer.

On Friday the father’s legal team, Elite Solicitors in Bristol, released a statement on his behalf expressing relief and anger.

It said: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) is rightly illegal in the UK. Our client consistently denied the allegation that he exposed his daughter to any form of FGM.

“He welcomes the not guilty verdict following the legal ruling there was no case for him to answer. The evidence was wholly unsatisfactory.

“Our client hopes that those involved in bringing this prosecution will learn important lessons from this case. The investigation by the police began in 2016. It has placed an intolerable pressure upon him and his family. He wishes to thank his wife and the wider community for their support throughout. He is very pleased the proceedings are finally over.”

The investigation was launched in 2016 after a worker for the Bristol-based charity Integrate UK alleged the man, a private-hire driver of Somali origin, had told him during a short taxi ride that his daughter had undergone a small procedure.

Police were called and when the designated doctor for safeguarding in Bristol examined the girl she saw a small lesion that she felt could represent FGM. The man was charged with child cruelty.

If the father had been found guilty it would have been the first FGM conviction in the UK. But the judge, Julian Lambert, said that elements of the prosecution including the medical evidence and the testimony of the Integrate UK worker were troubling. The jury was ordered to return a not guilty verdict.

There has been anger from some supporters of the man at the police, the CPS and Integrate UK. Outside court following the collapse of the case, there was a minor altercation between a young female Integrate UK worker and a group of the father’s supporters.

While fully accepting the judge’s decision, the police and CPS have said they will continue to try to bring perpetrators of FGM to justice. Integrate UK defended itself and its worker, who reported the man. In a statement it said: “We at Integrate UK are committed to eradicating all forms of FGM. We don’t just talk about it; we mean it.”

The statement said its workers had always faced vilification and criticism by some. It said: “The brave young people of Integrate UK … place the safety of girls ahead of politely keeping quiet in the interests of so-called ‘community relations’. This will not change. We enjoy excellent relations with most within our communities and those relationships will not be affected.”

One argument the defence put forward was that there was no proof the sort of FGM the girl had allegedly been subjected to – type four, which includes pricking, cauterising and piercing – had ever taken place in the UK. Both Avon and Somerset police and Integrate UK insisted that it did.

Integrate UK said: “We understand that there is a trend now to subject girls to less physically invasive FGM … so that it can be said that there has been a ‘procedure’ but it is less harmful or detectable by medics. Some believe that this is not FGM. Whatever the injury, this is harmful, physically and emotionally, and it is FGM. We must stop it.”

Topics