A UK Independence Party spokesman has called on West Midlands Police to clarify their position on prosecuting female genital mutilation cases, following a tweet by the force shedding doubt on a zero-tolerance approach.
Jane Collins MEP, UKIP’s Home Affairs spokesman, said in a press release she was “worried” by a tweet put out by West Midlands Police (WMP) which seemed to suggest that prosecuting the perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM) was not a priority for the force as it was “unlikely to benefit the child”.
— English Gardener (@Richard_1942) February 26, 2017
A follow-up tweet by Detective Gill Squires, FGM expert for WMP, intending to clarify the force’s stance merely further confused the issue by suggesting that the force will only prosecute if it is “in the child’s best interests” to do so.
— Orwellian disciple (@AstlesLeftfoot1) February 26, 2017
Collins said: “It is in the best interests of everyone that this child abuse is eradicated. I cannot envisage a situation where the mutilation of a young girl which causes physical and psychological trauma, would result in a decision not to prosecute.
“It is only by prosecuting – and I agree with the Commons Home Affairs select committee that it is a ‘national scandal’ there has yet to be a successful prosecution in the UK since 1985 when it was made illegal – that people will realise we will not live in a country with more than one set of laws.”
WMP later deleted the original tweet, replacing it with a link to a 2015 article which they said would “help explain” the issue.
The article explains that FGM has been a specific offence since the mid-80s, while further legislation introduced in 2015 allowed for parents to be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughters being cut.
It goes on to quote DC Squires as saying, “We’re still trying to fully understand the prevalence of FGM in the West Midlands but as a force we’re much better now at identifying potential victims – and with teachers, healthcare professionals and social workers more switched on to the signs we are seeing an increase in reporting. […] When a child is born to a woman who’s undergone FGM, steps are in place to stress to the family the practice is illegal.”
Detailing how the force planned to use posters in “hard-to-reach” communities to tackle the practice, she added: “The poster has been developed with community members and support groups and will be placed in schools and prominent locations…it’s a ‘softer’ approach to try and work alongside communities to change attitudes about the illegal practice.”
— West Midlands Police (@WMPolice) February 24, 2017
But Collins called for a tough approach to the issue, saying: “I don’t care if people say it’s cultural – it is sick, wrong and illegal and must be enforced with stronger sanctions.
“That is why this kind of message put out in the tweet from WMP worries me.”