Thursday 29 September 2016

Girl (13) 'at risk of female mutilation' returned from Sudan

Brian Farmer

Published 05/10/2015 | 15:08

Stock photo: The girl could not be identified.
Stock photo: The girl could not be identified.

A 13-year-old girl left in Sudan by her mother has returned to England after social services bosses took legal action fearing she was at a risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

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Staff at Kent County Council raised concerns and a judge made a new-style female genital mutilation protection order in early September.

Mr Justice Baker had ordered the teenager's mother to make arrangements to return her to Britain after analysing the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The judge said today - in a written update on the case - that the youngster had been returned to England late last week.

He had been told that the woman had travelled to Sudan and left the girl with relatives before returning home to England.

Mr Justice Baker said the girl could not be identified.

Legislation providing for the making of FGM protection orders came into force in July.

Lawyers had indicated that the girl's parents had separated.

They told Mr Justice Baker said the girl had been left in Sudan with relatives of her mother without her father's permission.

The woman had described the girl's father as ''manipulative'' and ''violent'' and had said she was ''fleeing''.

Barrister Zimran Samuel, who represented Kent Council, had outlined bosses' concerns.

He said the woman had told how women in her family had been subjected to FGM and he said her family considered FGM to be ''acceptable''.

Mr Samuel said Foreign Office statistics showed that FGM was ''common'' in Sudan and that around nine in 10 girls were ''cut''.

Barrister Diane McBrinn, for the woman, had told Mr Justice Baker that her client would take steps to get the girl back.

She said the woman denied that the girl was at risk of being subjected to FGM.

Mr Samuel had told Mr Justice Baker how the girl had emailed a teacher in England from Sudan, saying she was concerned that she had not returned with her mother.

Earlier this summer, Mr Samuel told of the benefits of the new FGM protection orders, when speaking to the Press Association.

He said FGM protection orders aimed to protect potential victims rather than punish offenders and could put barriers in front of people who posed a threat and give comfort and support to vulnerable females.

''(They) 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,'' said Mr Samuel.

''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 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.

''In cases in which girls at risk have already been taken abroad, civil orders can also work alongside existing mechanisms, including proper liaison with embassies and foreign courts so that every effort is made to recover victims.''

He added: ''A breach of an FGM protection order is a criminal offence and can be punished by a fine or imprisonment or both. As an alternative to prosecution, breach of an FGM protection order may be dealt with by the civil route as contempt of court.''

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