Last week saw the press report on two cases where the Family Court made Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) protections orders. These two separate cases were heard on the 29th February 2016 and 1st March 2016 in the Family Division of the High Court by Mr Justice Keehan. In both cases the applications were made by the relevant local authority. The circumstances of the first case concerned the daughter of a West African diplomat based in the UK. The child is under one year old. Her mother had initially raised concerns with the police that the child would be taken abroad for FGM by family members. The mother herself had been subjected to FGM and was concerned that the father would not prevent FGM from taking place. The local authority made an application on the basis of the mother’s concerns. The father denied he would subject his daughter to the procedure.

The second case involved a mother from south-east Asia who had enquired during a medical appointment as to where she could have her daughter circumcised. After the mother was informed that it was illegal in England the mother enquired further as to whether there had been cases where people had been caught after having the procedure carried out. The mother herself had had the procedure carried out and failed to show any understanding as to the impact the procedure has on the victim. In light of this Staffordshire County Council applied for the order.

Both cases are to be heard again later this month after further evidence has been obtained and to consider whether the Orders should continue. FGM is a criminal offence in the UK, however Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 inserted a new Section 5A into the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 which provides a civil remedy – the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Protection Order, which came into force on 17th July 2015. The purpose of the Order is to protect both victims and potential victims of FGM. The Orders will apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. An application for a FGM Protection Order can be made by:

  • The person seeking protection
  • A relevant third party – which at present is only local authorities
  • Any other person with permission of the court – this could be the police, family member, friend, teacher or healthcare professional

Should the court make a FGM Protection Order the court has a wide range of prohibitions, restrictions and requirements which they can impose to protect the victim or potential victim. The terms can relate to conduct that occurs both within and outside England and Wales. This can include preventing the girl from traveling abroad, having passports surrendered, preventing persons from making arrangements for FGM to be carried out, naming other individuals not to assist or commit FGM. An order can also seek the return of a FGM victim from abroad who is being prevented from returning.Breach of a FGM Protection Order is a criminal offence and if found guilty can result in a fine or up to 5 years imprisonment. Alternatively a civil route can be pursued by making an application to the family court for contempt of court. A finding of contempt can result in a sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment.

If you wish to discuss FGM Protection Orders please contact Mavis on 020 885 7986 who can provide further information, or arrange a mutually convenient consultation.

If you have a family law case you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 to arrange for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.

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