Force pledges to thoroughly investigate potential FGM after 'deeply troubling' case collapses
A force has pledged to continue doing all it can to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) after an “unprecedented” case collapsed due to inconclusive evidence.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary charged a 29-year-old Somali man with child cruelty after an anti-FGM campaigner reported that he allowed his six-year-old daughter to undergo the illegal procedure.
On Thursday (February 22), Judge Julian Lambert directed a jury at Bristol Crown Court to find him not guilty, describing the case against the father as “deeply troubling”.
Detective Chief Inspector Leanne Pook, force lead for FGM, said Avon and Somerset Constabulary accepts the court’s findings and will continue to improve “our responses to this important issue”.
She added: “FGM remains a deeply entrenched practice and we know these harmful procedures are happening in this country right now.
“I’d like to reassure the public that we’ll put as much energy, dedication and care into investigating FGM as we would do in any inquiry where a child is at risk of harm.
“We will continue to thoroughly investigate all potential offences of FGM. Alongside this we will maintain our focus on preventing FGM from taking place in the first place, working with our partners and communities and using all the legislative and safeguarding powers at our disposal.”
The case against the 29-year-old, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, was first reported to Avon and Somerset Constabulary by a worker for a Bristol-based anti-FGM group.
The campaigner claimed the father, who works as a private hire driver, had mentioned during a taxi ride that his daughter had undergone an FGM procedure.
The case was reported to police and the girl was examined two months later, which revealed evidence of a small lesion which the doctor believed may have been a form of FGM.
However, the injury had disappeared by the time a second check was conducted.
Both the alleged victim and her father denied any FGM had taken place.
No successful prosecution for FGM has ever been brought in the UK despite the practice being illegal for more than 30 years.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “This was an unusual and unprecedented case for the prosecution.
“Where we feel there is sufficient evidence, and it is in the public interest to pursue, it is right that we put cases before the court so that a decision can be made by judge or jury.”
Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Sue Mountstevens, who is also the national PCC representative for FGM, said: “The police take reports of FGM seriously as they would any form of abuse against a child.
“It’s important that the police continue to work with partner organisations and charities and we all continue to raise awareness of this unacceptable practice.
“I am very proud of the fantastic work in Bristol as part of the ‘Bristol Model’ to tackle FGM and supportive of the ambition to end FGM in a generation by working with young people.”