13:38, February 14 199 0 theguardian.com

2019-02-14 13:38:06
Christopher Chope was wrong to object to FGM bill

In response to Dr Brenda Kelly’s letter (13 February) regarding her experience of courts making an interim supervision order, this could only be made if a local authority was already involved with the litigation. This misses the point of the bill that Sir Christopher Chope objected to.

I proposed this bill to Lord Berkeley because of an occasion in court where the police sought a female genital mutilation protection order. The local authority were not involved but the judge wanted to engage their protective powers for the girl.

We found that while the court could do that automatically for a girl at risk of forced marriage (and many other risks such as domestic abuse), the judge could not for a girl at risk of genital mutilation. All a judge can do in that situation is to exhort a local authority to act. They have no powers to force the local authority’s hand.

It is this paradox that the bill seeks to close. It is indefensible that courts have lesser powers to protect girls at risk of FGM than those at risk of forced marriage.

Sir Christopher was wrong to oppose the bill for many reasons. This bill has already been debated and amended thoroughly in the House of Lords. It had all-party support in the Lords. His actions have left a gap in the law that must be filled. We are fortunate to have people such as Lord Berkeley who are prepared to do something about it.

David Maddison

Barrister, Cobden House Chambers, Manchester

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