A 37-year-old mother has been jailed for 13 years after becoming the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The woman was sentenced to 11 years after being found guilty of cutting her three-year-old daughter despite using witchcraft to “shut up” her accusers.
Mrs Justice Whipple added two further years for possessing indecent images and extreme pornography at a hearing on Friday.
“FGM has long been against the law and let’s be clear FGM is a form of child abuse,” the judge said.
“It’s a barbaric practice and a serious crime. It’s an offence which targets women, particularly inflicted when they are young and vulnerable.”
It is not known why the woman, from east London, inflicted FGM on her child but witchcraft has been cited as a possibility, the judge said.
Speaking of the psychological effect on the child, Mrs Justice Whipple said: “This is a significant and life long burden for her to carry.
“You betrayed her trust in you as her protector.”
Caroline Carberry QC, prosecuting, told the court the child had recovered well but was likely to have reduced sexual sensation in the future, as well as long-term psychological damage.
The Ugandan mother’s former partner was cleared of any involvement in the offence in 2017.
Commander Ivan Balhatchet, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for FGM, said: “Female genital mutilation is a barbaric and violent crime – a violation of human rights – often with lifelong consequences, committed by the people children should be able to trust the most.”
He said authorities were working with health, education and social care services to raise awareness of signs of FGM.
John Cameron, head of Childline, said: “Some cultures consider FGM a necessary part of bringing up a young girl. There may even be pressures for families to conform.
“The truth is it is a horrific form of child abuse and a criminal offence which has no place in today’s society.”
The trial heard how medics raised the alarm after she was taken to hospital with severe bleeding. Authorities were told that she fell and cut herself on the edge of a kitchen cupboard after reaching for a biscuit.
However, the child later confided in specially trained officers and said she had been cut by a “witch”.
Ms Carberry said police found evidence of witchcraft when they searched the mother’s home.
“Two cow tongues, they were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them, 40 limes were found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them,” she said.
“The names embedded included both police officers involved in the investigation of the case, the social worker, her own son and the then director of public prosecutions.
“These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths’. There was a jar with a picture of a social worker in pepper found hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom. Another spell was hidden under the bed.”
The mother gave evidence during the trial and denied she was guilty of FGM.
“It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that,” she told the court.
But the jury rejected her account and found her guilty in February.
Natasha Wong QC, mitigating, said the child had not been subject to an FGM protection order and added: “Things may have been a lot worse if she had not been taken to hospital.”
While being sentenced, the mother admitted having indecent images of a child and possessing extreme pornographic images.
Her sentences for those offences will run consecutively to the FGM jail term.
Outside the Old Bailey, deputy chief crown prosecutor Lynette Woodrow said: “We at the Crown Prosecution Service have kept in mind all the way through that at the heart of this case is a three-year-old girl.
“Her mother planned and arranged for this procedure to be carried out. She knew it was wrong. When it went wrong, her daughter was seriously injured.”
Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre said the case had caused “shockwaves in communities which practise FGM and we hope that this prison term will act as a deterrent, while encouraging other survivors to come forward to seek support”.
“The effects of female genital mutilation have a lifelong impact on survivors both physically and psychologically, so it is vital support is in place for the child for as long as she needs it.
“Sadly, there is currently a lack of psychological support available for survivors. This must be reversed and an emphasis placed on recognising that survivors need ongoing support throughout their lifetime.”
(c) Sky News 2019: Mother jailed for 13 years in first British FGM conviction