Almost all known cases of female genital mutilation carried out in the UK are legal piercings, official figures show.
The Department of Health controversially decided all intimate piercings should be included in new statistics collected by the NHS to record cases of FGM.
But out of 5,391 newly recorded cases of FGM found by GPs and NHS trusts in the year to March 2017, only 57 were performed in the UK of which 50, or 87 per cent, were in the category for piercings, and all the women whose ages were known were over 18.
The figures suggest almost all girls who undergo the shocking FGM procedure, which has been illegal for more than 30 years, are taken abroad.
But out of 5,391 newly recorded cases of FGM found by GPs and NHS trusts in the year to March 2017, only 57 were performed in the UK of which 50, or 87 per cent, were in the category for piercings
But campaigners argue the true picture is hidden as the practice and scale of the ‘child abuse’ remains out of sight from health professionals in the UK.
A spokesman for children’s charity the NSPCC said: ‘We know from calls to our dedicated helpline that female genital mutilation is still affecting hundreds of girls in the UK. For far too long female genital cutting has been cloaked in secrecy so the true picture of how many girls are affected is unknown.
‘We need more people in communities to join forces to ensure this dangerous and illegal practice is ended and urge young people and any adults worried about them, to speak out and get help.’
Police chief knew key witness in court case that fell apart
DCI Leanne Pook is a trustee of Integrate UK, it has emerged
For the past six years DCI Leanne Pook has fronted Avon and Somerset Police’s efforts to combat FGM. She led the investigation that ended with a taxi driver being prosecuted for child cruelty to his daughter and took key witness Sami Ullah’s statement.
However, it has emerged that DCI Pook, 46, is a trustee of Integrate UK, the anti-FGM charity Mr Ullah was working for, and has known him personally for several years. She has described him online as a ‘lovely fella’, ‘the greatest’ and ‘a champion’.
Two weeks after the unidentified Somali taxi driver was charged in June last year, Mr Ullah’s charity is said to have sent DCI Pook a large chocolate cake to say thank you. She posted a photo on Twitter with the caption: ‘From our gorgeous friends @_IntegrateUK who want to say thanks to the cops.’
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed DCI Pook took Mr Ullah’s initial statement and was the senior investigating officer.
Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger told The Mail on Sunday that letting the detective head the case involving a friend was a ‘total conflict of interest’.
Last week the latest attempt to secure the first court conviction for FGM collapsed at Bristol Crown Court and questions are now being asked about the role of the senior police officer involved in the case.
The inquiry began when a 29-year-old Uber driver was said to have told a passenger and anti-FGM campaigner that his daughter had undergone the procedure. The conversation was reported to police and experts were sent to examine the driver’s daughters at their Bristol home.
Doctors found a small mark on the youngest girl but noted the seven-year-old – who denied being harmed – appeared happy and well looked after.
A decision was made to prosecute after an investigation led by Detective Chief Inspector Leanne Pook, the Avon and Somerset Police lead officer investigating cases of FGM.
Passenger Sami Ullah’s account of the taxi chat in March 2016 was branded inconsistent by the judge when the case came to court after two years.
Directing the jury to find the father not guilty of child cruelty, Judge Julian Lambert said: ‘There is no evidence put by the prosecution as to when or how any alleged mutilation is said to have taken place. The evidence in this case is deeply troubling.’
And now personal links between DCI Pook and Mr Ullah and his charity have added to concerns over the way the case was handled.
Campaigners have also accused prosecutors of wasting public money and have questioned why Avon and Somerset Police trusted Mr Ullah’s inconsistent evidence.
The Government has pledged £35million to eradicate FGM and in 2015 it was made a requirement for medical staff, teachers and social workers to report cases.
Last year, Eurostar passengers at London’s St Pancras were grilled by officials about where they had been in a bid to root out FGM offenders.
But the first attempt to bring charges – against London doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena – ended in farce as he was acquitted in only 25 minutes.