The Crown Prosecution Service has expanded its guidance on Female Genital Mutilation to enable prosecutors and police to successfully bring more perpetrators to justice.
The CPS confirmed that suspects accused of allowing FGM to be carried out can face prosecution in the UK, regardless of where in the world the procedure took place.
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 guidance was updated following the first-ever UK conviction for FGM in February this year, where a woman was sentenced to 11 years in prison for FGM offences.
The refreshed 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.
It clarifies the difference between so-called “designer vagina” operations and FGM to guide prosecutors, given an increase in these procedures being carried out. It also clarifies the position on genital piercing,confirming that piercing female genitalia will not usually amount to FGM.
It states that while in theory, some cosmetic vaginal surgery such as labiaplasty could fall under the definition of FGM provided for by the 2003 Act, there have been no prosecutions. The updated version directs 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.
Advice on ways to support victims of FGM through the criminal justice system has also been updated. There is further direction on discussing Special Measures at an early stage in all FGM cases where the victim is giving evidence, the selection of interpreters who have complete understanding of the language and dialect of the victim and their culture, and it states that cross-examination is performed in a sensitive manner.
Female Genital Mutilation Prosecution Guidance