On 27 November we were fortunate enough to be invited to an evening hosted by Goldsmith
Chambers and The National Police Chiefs Council, to raise awareness of Forced Marriages and Female Genital Mutilation and the Legal Remedies available for Women and Girls. We are aware of the prevalence of this issue internationally, nationally but also critically so in Oxford where our firm is based and so the opportunity to understand this crisis further was gratefully received. FGM is a harmful traditional practice involving the cutting or removal of the external female genitals. There is absolutely no medical or religious justification for this abhorrent crime and in the United Kingdom it is deemed as Child Abuse and has been illegal since 1985. The informative evening was hosted at the beautiful Inner Temple Church, which reflected the sobriety of the evening perfectly. We were fortunate enough to hear from a number of speakers including Dr Charlotte Proudman, Counsel of Goldsmith Chambers, who opened with a chilling statistic:
“The number of British girls believed to be at risk of female genital mutilation have more than doubled in a year, with 100,000 already affected”
She went on to discuss the Pilot Practice Direction which launched on 23 July 2018 with application to FGM and Forced Marriage Protection Orders. It is designed to improve notification to the Police when a Court makes these types of Orders.
The Pilot Practice Direction 36H provides:
Applicants (or bailiffs on behalf of the court where an applicant in person) are required to
serve the order on the respondent within two days of the order being made by the court.
A certificate of service must be submitted to the court by the applicant or bailiff within 7
days of service on the respondent.
If the court has not received a certificate of service within the anticipated timeframe, HMCTS
will refer the file to a judge to consider what further order, if any, is required.
Applicants will be required to notify the police through a centralised email address within
two days of the respondent being served with the order.
Where service has been effected by the court, the court must serve the order on the
centralised police email address within one working day of receipt of the certificate of
service from the court bailiff 1
Charlotte Proudman in reference to the success of the PPD stated: “Judges have made more than 200 FGM Protection Orders since it was introduced in 2015, so it is clear the system is working.”
Further, she stated “Around 1,960 cases were reported between 2017 and 2018, more than twice the 970 cases reported the previous year, according to government figures” 2 .
We were also fortunate enough to hear from Leyla Hussain, a pioneering Psychotherapist who founded the Dahlia Project, the only support group for women who have undergone FGM which seeks to provide a space for women and girls to unpack the effects of FGM. She spoke incredibly passionately and implored the attendees to understand a crucial concept “FGM is one of the worst forms of sexual assault.”
We came away from the evening feeling privileged to have heard such passionate speakers share their research and, in some cases, personal experiences. The Pilot Practice Direction is due to completed in January 2019 and it is hoped that this will aid the Justice System in consistently striving to improve their handling of FGM cases, understanding the core principles, language and life long impacts of this devastating crime.
By Laura Boles