FGM perpetrators have no hiding place

|News, Violent crime

Suspects accused of allowing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to be carried out can face prosecution in the UK, regardless of where in the world the procedure took place, the CPS confirmed today.

Following on from the first-ever UK conviction for FGM in February this year, which saw a woman sentenced to 11 years in prison for FGM offences, the CPS has now expanded its guidance to help prosecutors and police successfully bring more perpetrators to justice.

The refreshed guidance also gives clarity on the line between so-called “designer vagina” operations and FGM to guide prosecutors, given the rise in popularity in these procedures.

Jaswant Narwal of the CPS said: “Female genital mutilation is a sickening offence that can have a serious lifelong physical and emotional impact on victims.

“We want to send a strong message that this crime does not have to be carried out in the UK for people to be prosecuted by the CPS - we will seek justice for people affected by this horrific practice. There is no hiding place.

“We hope this new guidance will give victims, police and prosecutors the confidence and practical guidance they need to bring more perpetrators of this traumatic abuse to justice.”

The new guidance introduces a series of practical updates which are informed by CPS’ experience prosecuting these offences.

It includes extra guidance to investigators on which types of expert evidence can be secured to help build a robust prosecution case to bring before the courts, considering pathology, gynaecology, and expert evidence of ritual and religion.

Furthermore, the guidance offers clarity on the position of genital piercing and genital cosmetic surgery under FGM legislation.

In theory, some cosmetic vaginal surgery, such as labiaplasty, could fall under the definition of FGM provided for by the 2003 Act. Although there have been no prosecutions, the guidance has been updated to direct prosecutors to consider whether the medical exceptions provided for by the 2003 Act apply in cases of labiaplasty or piercing.

If they do not, prosecutors should go on to consider public interest factors, including the age of the victim, whether they provided fully informed and free consent, the level of physical or mental harm caused and the impact on the individual’s quality of life now and in the future.

The guidance confirms that piercing female genitalia will not usually amount to FGM.

Advice on ways to support victims of FGM through the criminal justice system has also been updated. It includes further direction on discussing Special Measures at an early stage in all FGM cases where the victim is to give evidence, the selection of interpreters who have complete understanding of the language and dialect of the victim and their culture, and that cross-examination is performed in a sensitive manner.

Notes to editors

  • Our updated legal guidance can be read on this website
  • There are four FGM offences under the 2003 FGM Act:
    • the primary offence of FGM: section 1
    • assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitals: section 2
    • assisting a non-UK person to mutilate a girl’s genitals overseas: section 3; and
    • failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM: section 3A.
  • Under section 1, it is a criminal offence to “excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate” the whole or any part of a girl's labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.
  • Now CPS legal guidance makes clear to police and prosecutors that if the suspect is a UK national or resident, then there is jurisdiction for the CPS to prosecute, wherever in the world the offence is alleged to have taken place and regardless of the nationality or residence of the victim.
  • Jaswant Narwal is the CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern and CPS lead for FGM
  • More information on the first FGM conviction in England and Wales

Further reading