CALL FOR ACTION: Diane Abbott
LABOUR POLITICIAN Diane Abbott fully supports an action plan that will be published on improving prosecutions for female genital mutilation (FGM).
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer QC is publishing his action plan on improving prosecutions for FGM following his round table meeting with experts in September.
FGM has been a specific criminal offence in England and Wales since 1985, but no prosecutions have ever been brought.
In September, a round table meeting on prosecuting cases of FGM with more than 30 interested and expert parties was hosted by the DPP at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Headquarters in London, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, individual police forces, Members of Parliament, medical professionals, the NSPCC and other third sector organisations.
Speaking on how to tackle FGM, Abbott said: “I really welcome this. The issue has lurked in the shadows for too long, and I think it’s got to be brought into mainstream consciousness more.
“About 20,000 children in England and Wales are deemed "at risk" every year. The situation is similar in France, yet whereas some 100 parents and practitioners of this have been convicted in France, there has never been a single prosecution in the UK.”
Abbott continued: “I think many of the people who are affected by this are voiceless and unprotected, and we’ve got to do more to understand it.”
The DPP has established a steering group to oversee the progress on the action points ahead of his next FGM prosecution round table in summer 2013.
Starmer said: “It’s critical that everything possible is done to ensure we bring the people who commit these offences against young girls and women to justice and this action plan is a major step in the right direction.
“Everyone who can play a part in stopping FGM – from the doctor with a suspicion that an offence has been committed and the police officer investigating the initial complaint to the prosecutor taking a charging decision – needs to know what to do to improve detection rates, strengthen investigations and, for the part of the CPS, to start getting these offenders into court.
“I am determined that the CPS should play a key role in ensuring that the impunity with which these offenders have acted will end.”
The action points include gathering more robust data on allegations of FGM, so the scale of the problem can be gauged.