Police Commander on Lack of Female Genital Mutilation Convictions: ‘There Are Many Nuances to This Crime’

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The police commander tasked with tackling female genital mutilation has excused the lack of convictions for the crime by saying it has “many nuances”.

Ivan Balhatchet, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on ‘honour’ violence, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage, was responding to a letter from Jonathan Nicholas, a writer who served as a frontline police officer for 30 years, asking why there has yet to be a single conviction for FGM despite tens of thousands of recorded cases since it was criminalised in 1985.

“Thank you for your letters received dated 10th October 2017 and 12th January 2018 [sic],” wrote Balhatchet.

“May I apologise for the tardiness in my response, you can appreciate that as the National Policing Lead for this portfolio the need to prioritise resources to tackle all forms of Honour-Based Abuse, including Female Genital Mutilation. This includes working with both statutory and non-governmental organisations, in ways to prevent FGM and protect girls and women.”

Coming to the point, the police commander excused the lack of convictions in somewhat confused English:

“There are many nuances to this crime type, which even third-sector charitable organisations, do not claim to share a nexus with your rationale of concerns for the lack of successful prosecutions [sic].”

Balhatchet’s remarks, while difficult to interpret with certainty, were widely interpreted as confirmation that the police do not consider it appropriate to punish those responsible for FGM.

This would be in line with a similar statement from West Midlands Police, which said it felt “Prosecuting/jailing parents [is] unlikely to benefit [the] child”.

Like West Midlands Police, Commander Balhatchet was forced into a rapid climbdown after receiving a furious backlash on social media, tweeting: “I apologise for this letter. It is not clear at all. FGM is the appalling abuse of children. It is unacceptable that there have been no successful prosecutions. Working with others, this is something that needs to change.”

The inaction on FGM and reference to “nuances” would appear to be broadly in line with the officer’s previous statements on such crimes under his National Police Chiefs’ Council brief.

When Freedom of Information requests revealed that police were referring just 5 per cent of honour-based crimes to prosecutors — despite the number of reports surging by 68 per cent between 2014 and 2015 — Balhatchet said that “‘Honour’ based abuse is a complex crime”, and referred to potential issues within “community or family networks”.

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