14:57, March 22 164 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-22 14:57:06
UK solicitor cleared of forcing daughter to undergo FGM

A man has been cleared of arranging female genital mutilation on his daughter when she was nine.

The defendant, a 50-year-old solicitor who cannot be named for legal reasons, was accused of beating his children and organising for FGM to be carried out on his daughter on two occasions. At the trial at the Old Bailey in London he denied the charges against him and said he had never threatened to have his daughter cut.

He was accused of twice arranging for someone to go to the family’s home in south London to cut the child with a razor.

During an interview in July last year, the daughter, now 16, said she had been subjected to the practice twice between 2010 and 2013. On each occasion she was made to lie on a mat in the hallway of her home, naked from the waist down, jurors were told. They heard that she could not identify the cutter but recalled her father “egging the person on”.

The court heard the girl had been cut as a form of punishment after stealing money from the family home. The allegations came to light after the girl told a friend, whose mother contacted Childline.

Kate Bex QC, defending, suggested FGM was “predominantly perpetrated by female cutters on women” for reasons including “purification, honour and social acceptance”.

After the breakdown of the parents’ marriage, the children had been “susceptible to their mother’s influence at the expense of their relationship with their father and have, whether consciously or not, rewritten their history”, she said. A medical expert confirmed the girl’s genitalia had been cut but said the scars were unusual and could not say when the injuries occurred.

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The facts you should know about female genital mutilation

Giving evidence, the defendant told jurors he loved all his children equally. He added: “I have never used any implement on any of my children. I have never used my hand to hit them.”

The jury deliberated for more than six hours before finding the defendant not guilty of two counts of FGM, two alternative counts of wounding with intent and three counts of cruelty to a child.

This is only the second prosecution to be brought under FGM legislation that was introduced in 1985. In February the trial of a father accused of allowing his six-year-old daughter to undergo FGM collapsed after the judge called aspects of the prosecution “deeply troubling” and deemed the man had no case to answer.

Leethen Bartholomew, the head of the National FGM Centre, said: “While we respect the decision of the jury, it is important to remember that someone did carry out female genital mutilation on the victim almost a decade ago.

“The effects of FGM have a lifelong impact on survivors, both physically and psychologically, so it is vital support is in place for her for as long as she needs it.

“At the National FGM Centre we work to prevent this hidden form of child abuse and also provide support to girls who have been cut.

“Education is key, including working with girls and their families, raising awareness in schools and communities, and training professionals like social workers and teachers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.”

Adults worried about a child who is at risk of or has been the victim of FGM can contact the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550

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