What can be learnt from the first FGM case?

What can be learnt from the first FGM case?

What impact will the decision in the first case relating to female genital mutilation (FGM) have on future cases? Felicity Gerry QC, a human rights barrister at 36 Bedford Row specialising in FGM law and child protection issues, discusses the case and the importance of expert evidence.

Original news

Re B and G (Children) (No 2) [2015] EWFC 3, [2015] All ER (D) 99 (Jan)

The local authority's case was that G has been subjected to FGM and that that constituted 'significant harm' within the meaning of the Children Act 1989, s 31 (ChA 1989). The Family Court held that there was insufficient evidence of FGM but that FGM did amount to 'significant harm' for the purposes of ChA 1989, s 31.

What is the significance of this decision?

There are two main points that I think are significant. Firstly, FGM of a child will not automatically lead to adoption and that seems to me to be of most significance. It is logical because FGM generally arises in families where they are otherwise caring and where this is a cultural issue.

Secondly, the ruling underlines the importance of accurate expert evidence in this area. There were three experts, all of whom were criticised to some extent. For my part, that was almost inevitable given the novel nature of the case. It has exposed how little experience in the medical profession there is firstly of FGM amongst children and secondly of giving evidence on it. In addition, the ruling gives very useful guidelines on how experts should give evidence on children's vaginas.

What were the challenges in this case in terms of establishing whether the child had been subjected to FGM?

In this particular case there was a dispute over whether anything had been seen at all and, if it had, what it was--a scar or something else. The challenge was for the court to be able to say, as a matter of fact, that the child had been mutilated. The court concluded there

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