The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
The Ugandan woman, 37, and her Ghanaian partner, 43, both from Walthamstow, east London, were accused of cutting their daughter over the 2017 summer bank holiday.
The mother was found guilty of FGM, and wept in the dock as she heard the verdict, while her partner was acquitted.
FGM – intentionally altering or injuring the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons – carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.
Prosecutors said the mother “coached” her daughter “to lie to the police so she wouldn’t get caught”.
A “lengthy” jail term
The defendants, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied FGM and an alternative charge of failing to protect a girl from risk of genital mutilation.
Mrs. Justice Whipple warned of a “lengthy” jail term as she remanded the woman into custody to be sentenced on 8 March.
During the trial, the woman claimed her daughter, then aged three, “fell on metal and it’s ripped her private parts” after she had climbed to get a biscuit in August 2017.
Evidence of “witchcraft”
Medics alerted police to the girl’s injuries after they treated her at Whipps Cross Hospital, in Leytonstone.
Police searched the mother’s home and found evidence of witchcraft.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC said two cow tongues were “bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife” embedded in them.
Forty limes and other fruit were found with pieces of paper with names on them stuffed inside, including those of police officers and a social worker involved in the investigation.
“These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths’,” Ms. Carberry said.
Prayers to Christian saints
“There was a jar with a picture of a social worker in pepper found hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom,” she added.
The woman had also written out psalms on forgiveness from the Bible and prayers to Christian saints, asking not to go to jail.
Giving evidence in court, the mother maintained her account of an accidental injury and told jurors: “It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that.”
It is the first time anyone has been convicted of FGM offences since the practice was criminalised in the UK in 1985, with laws being expanded in 2003 and 2015.
But police officers were unable to confirm whether the mother had carried out the procedure herself, or had paid a “cutter” who remains at large.
In the third interview with police, the victim said there was a “lady with silver hair” who cut her at home. She said her mum and dad called the woman “a witch”.