Articles on Shifting Sands
FGM: charges and prosecutions 2018-2022
FOI request: ‘I am writing to make an information request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I would like to request the following data from January 2018 up to and including December 2022, with the data broken down for each calendar year.’
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) response to this anonymous request is reproduced below. It is surprising that the CPS does not collate data concerning the number of referrals it receives or pre-charge decisions to charge by specific offence. That’s because a manual review of cases would have to be carried out to obtain the requested data and that would be prohibitively expensive.
The CPS response:
1. Of the cases of alleged Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) referred to the CPS, how many were charged?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) does not collate data concerning the number of referrals it receives or pre-charge decisions to charge by specific offence.
In order to obtain the requested information, a manual review of all cases referred to the CPS for a charging decision for the offence referred to above would be required for the time period you specify.
Section 12(1) of the FOI Act means public authorities are not obliged to comply with a request for information if it estimates the cost of complying would exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit for central government is set at £600. This means that the appropriate limit will be exceeded if it would require more than 24 hours’ work in determining whether the CPS holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information.
By way of assistance and advice in the 12 months ending December 2022, 202,073 suspects were referred to the CPS for a charging decision or early investigative advice and during the same period, a charge was authorised in respect of 130,338 suspects. We believe the time taken to conduct a detailed review of all these cases to obtain the information you seek (and in a much-narrowed time frame), would exceed the appropriate limit. Consequently, we are not obliged to comply with this part of your request.
2. How many of these were then acquitted and for what reason?
The offence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is created by S1 of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. During the period from 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2022 there were two instances of this offence commencing prosecution. One of these cases resulted in a jury acquittal and the CPS does not hold any information concerning the Jury’s reasoning for acquittal.
3. How many prosecutions have there been for a break of a FGM Protection Order?
The offence of breaching a FGM Protection Order (FGMPO) is created by S63CA of the Family Law Act. The table of offences data below shows the number of offences of breaching an FGMPO in which a prosecution commenced in each of the last four calendar years where the prosecution has now been finalised. Please note the caveats below the table.
|Offences charged and reaching a first hearing at magistrates’ courts||2018||2019||2021||2022|
|Family Law Act 1996 (s.63CA(1) and (5))||9||3||10||7|
Offences recorded in the Management Information System Offences Universe are those which reached a hearing. There is no indication of final outcome or if the charged offence was the substantive charge at finalisation.
Data relates to the number of offences recorded in magistrates’ courts, in which a prosecution commenced, as recorded on the Case Management System.
Offences data are not held by defendant or outcome.
Offences recorded in the Offences Universe of the MIS are those which were charged at any time and reached at least one hearing. This offence will remain recorded whether or not that offence was proceeded with and there is no indication of final outcome or if the offence charged was the substantive offence at finalisation.
CPS data are available through its Case Management System (CMS) and associated Management Information System (MIS). The CPS collects data to assist in the effective management of its prosecution functions. The CPS does not collect data that constitutes official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
These data have been drawn from the CPS’s administrative IT system, which (as with any large scale recording system) is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the CPS. We are committed to improving the quality of our data and from mid-June 2015 introduced a new data assurance regime which may explain some unexpected variance in some future data sets.
The official statistics relating to crime and policing are maintained by the Home Office (HO) and the official statistics relating to sentencing, criminal court proceedings, offenders brought to justice, the courts and the judiciary are maintained by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).’
Copied from the CPS website 17 Oct 2023.
About the Author - Bríd Hehir
Bríd is a retired health professional. She started her career as a nurse and midwife in Africa where she worked for almost four years. She encountered FGM/C in Ethiopia. She then moved to London where she worked in the National Health Service as a midwife, community nurse, health visitor, reproductive and sexual health nurse and manager over a period of 30 years. She did not encounter FGM/C during that time despite working with immigrant communities who are reported to practice it still. She is puzzled by the current reported prevalence of the practice, the official response and associated activism. And is worried that they might cause more harm than good.