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Girl, two, returned to UK from Guinea amid FGM concerns

Published 05/08/2016

Details were revealed by lawyers representing the Metropolitan Police at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court
Details were revealed by lawyers representing the Metropolitan Police at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court

A two-year-old girl thought to be at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation has been returned to the UK from West Africa following moves by police and a family court judge in England plus Dutch embassy staff, lawyers say.

Alarm bells had sounded after the youngster - whose family have links to Holland - was recently taken from her home in England to Guinea, a High Court judge heard on Friday.

Lawyers said the Metropolitan Police had launched an investigation, a family court in London had made a female genital mutilation (FGM) protection order and Dutch embassy staff had made arrangements to get the youngster out of Guinea.

Detail of the moves made to ensure the girl's safety were revealed by lawyers representing the Metropolitan Police at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Barrister Zimran Samuel, who led the police legal team, told Mr Justice Moylan that a man had been arrested and released on bail pending further investigation.

A judge is due to analyse the case again at another family court hearing in the near future.

Mr Justice Moylan said the girl would undergo a medical examination and he said all evidence from police and family members should be gathered so that facts could be established.

The judge said detail of the case could be reported - but he said the girl could not be identified.

Judges began to make FGM protection orders in the summer of 2015 following changes in the law.

Mr Samuel, a specialist in FGM litigation, had said last year that the orders could "make a very real difference".

He said they were aimed at protecting potential victims rather than punishing offenders.

T hey could put barriers in front of people who posed a threat and could give comfort and support to vulnerable females, he said.

"FGM protection orders, which were originally one of several recommendations made by the Bar Human Rights Committee, can make a very real difference where the criminal law has historically failed. The criminal law is intended to punish perpetrators after FGM has happened," Mr Samuel had said.

"The new civil orders allow for intervention to prevent potential victims from being subjected to FGM in the first place.

"Further, the underlying thinking behind civil protection is to encourage girls at risk to come forward without feeling that the full force of the criminal law will necessarily be brought against those closest to them.

"A judge in the family court has a high level of discretion and flexibility in how these cases progress, with the fundamental aim of protecting those at risk."

He had added: "Importantly, the new legal provisions protect girls who live in the UK not only from FGM which may be committed in this jurisdiction but in fact anywhere in the world. It is an offence to breach an order, regardless of where FGM is committed."

Children's charity Plan International UK said FGM was a fundamental human rights issue and a problem for the whole world.

"This case is yet another reminder that FGM doesn't respect borders: it's a problem with a global reach," said Kerry Smith, the charity's head of girls' rights.

"It's imperative that our response in the UK is seen as part of wider international efforts to tackle, once and for all, what is a fundamental human rights abuse."

She added: "We've shown how local-level community engagement and education work in countries where FGM is most prevalent is proven, over time, to help reduce the number of cases. Through the Department for International Development, the UK has led the way with such work."

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