A mother-of-three has become the first person to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK, in a landmark verdict given at the Old Bailey in London on Friday.
The Central Criminal Court confirmed to CNN that a 37-year-old Ugandan woman from Walthamstow, London, was found guilty of performing FGM on her daughter in summer 2017.
The mother wept in court when the verdict was announced, the UK’s Press Association (PA) news agency reported, while her partner, 43, from Ghana, was acquitted of all charges. The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had denied the charges of performing FGM and failing to protect a girl from the risk of genital mutilation.
“You have been found guilty of a serious offense against your daughter,” Judge Mrs Justice Whipple said, as she warned of a “lengthy” prison sentence. The woman has been remanded in custody and will now be sentenced on March 8, according to London’s Metropolitan Police.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Baker from the Metropolitan Police acknowledged the “bravery” of the victim since the ordeal, and confirmed in a statement that she has made a “very speedy recovery” and been placed with another family.
Under UK law, anyone found guilty of performing FGM can be imprisoned for a maximum of 14 years. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985 under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, which was later modernized in the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
CNN has contacted the woman’s lawyer for comment.
The victim’s case was raised to police after she was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital in northeast London suffering from severe bleeding. Doctors subsequently confirmed that her injuries were consistent with being cut with a scalpel, police said in a statement.
The two defendants maintained, however, that the victim sustained her injuries after falling and cutting herself on a kitchen cupboard after reaching for a biscuit tin, said police.
“It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that,” the mother told the jury, according to PA.
The victim’s older brother told police that he had seen his sister crying and “blood dripping on the floor.” The victim also told a foster carer following the incident that she had been held down and cut, the police said.
Police found evidence that the mother had practiced “witchcraft,” casting spells at her home in a bid to silence her accusers; including police, social workers and lawyers.
“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,” Caroline Carberry QC, who was prosecuting the case, said according to PA.
“These names embedded included both police officers involved in the investigation of the case, the social worker, her own son and the then director of public prosecutions.
“These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths.’ … Another spell was hidden under the bed.”
The father denied engaging in “witchcraft,” and claimed he was not in the premises at the time his daughter was cut. He nevertheless accepted that his daughter had been cut.
Sajid Javid, the UK’s home secretary, welcomed the “landmark” conviction on Twitter. “Female genital mutilation is a sickening, depraved form of child abuse and we will do all we can to ensure all perpetrators are brought to justice,” he wrote.
Nimco Ali, co-founder of Daughters of Eve — a charity dedicated to ending FGM — also tweeted: “I am so heartbroken we let this girl down, but we have now given her some justice. To all those who say FGM is not an issue or it’s your culture, be on notice that we will seek to do whatever we can to protect girls.”
Only three other cases of FGM have been brought to trial in the UK, all of which ended in acquittal. There have been 298 prevention orders put in place in order to protect children who have been perceived as at risk.