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Female Genital Mutilation: Prosecutions

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Opposition Whip (Commons)

What steps the CPS is taking to improve the rate of prosecution of people responsible for female genital mutilation.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

What steps the CPS is taking to improve the rate of prosecution of people responsible for female genital mutilation.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The Crown Prosecution Service is determined to bring those responsible for female genital mutilation to justice. These are complex cases, usually involving very young and vulnerable victims. When expert medical evidence confirms that an offence has been committed, CPS prosecutors work closely with the police from the outset to build robust cases. This Government regard FGM as a serious criminal offence of child abuse, and we are committed to tackling this appalling crime.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. In Nottingham, we are really proud to be the first community in the country to declare ourselves a zero-tolerance area for FGM, but we cannot do this alone. We need other parts of the system to work, too, so can the Minister assure me and the campaigners in my community that the Crown Prosecution Service is adequately resourced to do all the good things that he has just described and that it is focused on doing them as a priority?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

I commend the hon. Gentleman and the city of Nottingham for what they are doing in this area. I have been told that piloting and trialling are taking place in some Nottingham schools. The CPS is working very hard to fight the scourge of female genital mutilation. We have lead FGM prosecutors in each CPS area, and there is a stakeholder group for so-called honour-based abuse and forced marriage, as well as FGM. That met twice in 2019, and it is already helping to improve investigation and prosecution performance.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

The lack of services to support the victims of female genital mutilation is often seen as a reason why so many cases are left unreported. What effect does the Attorney General—whoever that might be—think the cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service have had on the reporting of FGM cases?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

I am pleased to say that £85 million has just been allocated by this Government to the Crown Prosecution Service. That enormous sum has been very well received. The reality is that FGM is a complex criminal offence. It is difficult to prosecute, but when these matters are made the subject of a complaint, every effort is made to gold-standard the process to make proceeding as easy as possible. I say again that the joint police-CPS taskforce—the stakeholder group—was established in order to make progress across this range of areas, including pre-prosecution.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

My hon. Friend has spoken a lot about FGM in the UK, but does he agree that a lot of the problems come when children go abroad? At the moment, the Gambian Government are rewriting their constitution and there is a question mark as to whether they will maintain the clause banning all forms of FGM. Will he reach out to his opposite number in Gambia, through the Foreign Office, and support them in drafting a constitution that is appropriate in this area? Will he also support the work that people such as Nimco Ali are doing to ensure that our voice and the voices of women around the world are heard?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

Nimco Ali is doing some great work in this area. We will liaise with the Foreign Office, where appropriate, to offer our views. I can also say that the point my hon. Friend makes has a tendency to raise jurisdictional issues, which is one of the points of complexity that we have in prosecuting these cases. However, every effort is—rightly so—being made to tackle this appalling crime.