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Female Genital Mutilation (Conviction Rates)

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 12th February 2013.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 11:30 am, 12th February 2013

What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on increasing the Crown Prosecution Service’s conviction rate for female genital mutilation.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

The Director of Public Prosecutions regularly briefs the Attorney-General and me on the issue of prosecuting for female genital mutilation and on the action plan that was developed following the Crown Prosecution Service round table on 28 September 2012.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I very much welcome the DPP’s action plan, which is a positive step forward. May I urge the Solicitor-General to look at the work being done in Bristol with young women from affected communities? They have been really brave in speaking out—they have even developed a two-part storyline for “Casualty”, which will be shown later this year. Does he agree that ensuring that such work is community-led as well as Crown Prosecution Service-led is an important way of dealing with the problem?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

I certainly agree with that. The inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls, which is chaired by the Home Secretary, is taking a particular interest in those sorts of approaches, so I commend the hon. Lady on mentioning it in the House, and she is absolutely right. Finding the right evidence and having the support of the community—and, therefore, support for the victim—is vital.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

Further to that answer, has the Solicitor-General any measures in mind that would make it easier for people to report this dreadful crime? I am thinking in particular of the language barrier, which is often a factor in cases of this kind.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

The action plan that I have mentioned contains a number of proposals to improve the situation and to make it easier for people to come forward. The main obstacle is not so much the language barrier. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can imagine that many of these cases involve young girls from particular communities, and that there are cultural and other taboos that make this very difficult for them. The real point is the approach mentioned by Kerry McCarthy involving getting community support. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, however.