A British woman has been found guilty of handing over a three-year-old who was subjected to female genital mutilation in a legal first.
Jurors were told Amina Noor, 39, took the toddler, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to Kenya in 2006 where the procedure was carried out.
A court heard the girl, who was not told what would happen to her, cried for the “whole night” after the procedure.
On Thursday, Noor was found guilty of assisting a person to mutilate a girl’s genitalia while outside the UK, contrary to the FGM Act of 2003, following a week-long trial at the Old Bailey. She was granted conditional bail and is due to be sentenced on 20 December.
Prosecutors have said the conviction, which is the first of its kind, sends a “clear message” over the practice of FGM, which is “shrouded in secrecy”. Noor is also only the second person to be found guilty of any offence under FGM laws, which brings a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
During the trial, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC said Ms Noor travelled by tuk-tuk to a clinic at a private house in the east African country, where the girl was taken into a room on her own by a woman whose medical qualifications were not known.
The girl, who was born in Britain, was not told what would happen to her or was “too young to understand”.
“Whilst they were there, she took [the girl] to the house of Kenyan woman, where [the girl] was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM),” she told the court.
Afterwards, the toddler was “quiet” but later cried the whole night, complaining of pain when she went to the toilet.
The incident was not reported until 2018, when the girl – then aged 16 – confided in an English teacher who contacted the authorities.
During a medical examination at a London hospital in 2019, doctors confirmed the girl’s clitoris had been fully removed.
Jurors heard the defendant was born in Somalia and moved to Kenya at the age of eight during the civil war in her home country. She was 16 when she came to the United Kingdom and was later granted British citizenship.
The court was told that 94 per cent of women of Somali origin living in Kenya undergo FGM, according to United Nations’ figures.
In a police interview in 2019, Noor, who denied the charge, said she had expected the child to undergo ‘Sunnah’, which she said was the insertion of a needle in the genitalia to draw blood, but insisted she did not know her clitoris would be removed.
“She said that it was a quick procedure and that although [the child] had cried when it was carried out, she was happy and able to run around and play afterwards,” Deer told the court.
However, she said did not check the child’s wound, “nor did she want to”, the court heard.
Giving evidence, Noor, from Harrow, northwest London, told jurors she feared she would have been “disowned and cursed” if she did not hand over the child.
She said: “I didn’t know whether this was going to be something that is harming (the girl) but I did not want to allow it whatever it might be. I was told I would be cursed if I refuse.”
Senior crown prosecutor Patricia Strobino, who works in the CPS London Complex Casework Unit, hailed Noor’s conviction as sending a “clear message” on FGM, and urged other survivors to come forward. She said: “This kind of case will hopefully encourage potential victims and survivors of FGM to come forward, safe in the knowledge that they are supported, believed and also are able to speak their truth about what’s actually happened to them.
“It will also send a clear message to those prospective defendants or people that want to maintain this practice that it doesn’t matter whether they assist or practise or maintain this practice within the UK, or overseas, they are likely to be prosecuted.”
She added: “Part of the challenge of this type of offence is the fact that these types of offences occur in secrecy.
“Within specific communities within the UK, although these offences and practices are prevalent, it’s often very difficult to get individuals to come forward to explain the circumstances of what’s happened to them because there was a fear that they may be excluded or pushed away or shunned, isolated from their community.”
In a statement outside court, Detective Superintendent Andy Furphy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “I hope this conviction demonstrates the lengths we will go to, to enforce the law on female genital mutilation.
“If you reside in the UK and take, arrange or facilitate a child to be taken out of the country for this barbaric crime, no matter where it takes place in the world, we can convict you.”
Responding to landmark case, an FGM campaigner called for urgent updates to outdated statistics for women and girls affected in England and Wales. Figures dating from 2014 estimate there are 137,000 impacted by FGM.
Nimco Ali, FGM survivor and cofounder of Five Foundation, a global partnership to end FGM, said: “I underwent FGM at age 7, so I know this girl’s pain. When I told my teacher in Manchester, very little could be done to help me or others like me, who were affected by FGM.
“Thankfully, things have changed so much in the last decades, following the work we have done to improve laws and policies, and get this issue out of the shadows and onto the front pages of national media.
“It is incredible that the mandatory reporting by teachers and health care professionals - that we have fought hard for - is starting to pay off. A girl was obviously failed. She was let down by the system, but she got some form of justice today, thanks to the policies that we now have in place.”
She added: “We have to address FGM in the UK and everywhere by working together to address the root causes of the issue. The next step is getting a clearer sense of the number of women and girls who are affected here.”