The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
The girl’s Ugandan mother was prosecuted under FGM laws after using a ‘witch’ to help her carry out the surgery at her home in Walthamstow, east London.
The girl, now five, told police she was pinned down while a woman they called a witch mutilated her.
The girl’s Ghanaian father, 43, was also prosecuted but was cleared of all charges at the Old Bailey today. Neither parent can be named for legal reasons.
The court has heard how the mutilation went wrong and emergency services were called. They were told the girl had fallen, but a surgeon found three separate sites of injury and no bruising to indicate a fall.
The girl was told to say she had injured herself on a cupboard door after climbing on to a work surface to get biscuits when she was interviewed by social workers, the Old Bailey heard.
When officers searched the mother’s home in east London, they found cows’ tongues and evidence of spells and curses in the freezer, the jury heard.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said the mother had an interest in witchcraft. Her spells targeted social workers, police in the case and even the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.
Describing the items found in the kitchen freezer, she said: ‘Two cow tongues, they were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them, 40 limes were found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them. These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths’.’
The mother, who is a convicted benefits cheat, had even taken a picture of her handiwork – and sent it to a prospective boyfriend in Africa.
She wept in the dock today as she was found guilty of the charge.
Judge Mrs Justice Whipple warned of a ‘lengthy’ jail term as she remanded the woman into custody ahead of sentencing on March 8.
Giving evidence, the mother had maintained her account of an accidental injury and told jurors: ‘It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that.’
The law on FGM
Female genital mutilation has been a specific offence in the UK since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. The 1985 Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
It now includes assisting and taking children abroad to be cut.
There have been just three other trials involving FGM – two in London and one in Bristol – which all ended in acquittals while some 298 prevention orders have been put in place to safeguard children at risk.
Carrying out FGM currently carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The father denied having an interest in ‘voodoo’ or ‘witchcraft’ and claimed he was outside when his daughter was hurt.
However, the court heard FGM would need more than one person to do it, although police have not identified anyone else in the case.
The father told jurors he accepted his partner’s explanation at first but now accepted she had been cut.