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Judge makes new-style fgm order to protect girl (13)






Social services bosses have taken High Court action in a bid to protect a 13-year-old girl who has been taken to Sudan by her mother and is feared to be at risk of female genital mutilation (fgm).

A judge has made a new-style female genital mutilation protection order - and ordered the teenager's mother to make arrangements to return her to Britain - after staff at Kent County Council raised concerns.

Mr Justice Baker - who today analysed the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London - was told that the woman had travelled to Sudan and left the girl with relatives before returning home to England.

He said the girl could not be identified. The case is due to be re-examined in the near future.

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

Lawyers indicated that the girl's parents had separated.

They 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, outlined bosses' concerns.

Mr Samuel said social workers had been working with police and specialists at the Foreign Office and regarded the matter as "urgent".

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".

He said Foreign Office statistics showed that fgm was "common" in Sudan and that around nine in 10 girls were "cut".

"It is extremely concerning that the mother left (the girl) with her family in the knowledge that they consider fgm to be an acceptable practice," Mr Samuel told the judge in written documents.

"The local authority's position is that there is a risk to this child that she could be forced to undergo this procedure and that injunctive steps need to be taken as a matter of urgency."

Mr Justice Baker made an fgm protection order, told the girl's mother to arrange for her to be returned home to England, and said: "The court is concerned that there is a risk that (the girl) will be subjected to female genital mutilation."

Diane McBrinn, for the woman, said her client would comply and take steps to get the girl back.

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

Earlier this summer Mr Samuel had 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.''

Mr Samuel said in the case before Mr Justice Baker, the 13-year-old girl had emailed a teacher in England, after being left in Sudan, saying she was concerned that she had not returned with her mother.

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