Let’s talk about FGM more widely

12 October 2018

Speaking to a room of detectives with different investigative backgrounds, Chief Inspector Leanne Pook from Avon and Somerset Police spoke about the taboo subject of what is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the work that she is doing to combat this issue.

Speaking on the second day of the annual Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) seminar, delegates heard that FGM has only been illegal in the UK since 1985. In 2003 the FGM Act was introduced which made it an offence for girls to be taken abroad for procedures - but there is still a great deal of work to be done.

CI Pook spoke of the many evidential difficulties there are when dealing with these types of cases, which can make securing charges very challenging.  She also spoke about the lack of intelligence, especially with partner agencies when it comes to speaking to the families of children who have suffered FGM.

More widely people find this a “taboo” subject, not widely discussed by men or women.

CI Pook has found this to be the most difficult area that she has worked in - made even worse by the fact that perpetrators believe they are committing FGM for the benefit of the victim, and so far there have been no successful police prosecutions for the specific offence of FGM in England and Wales.

CI Pook was recognised by the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, where she was awarded a Chief Constable Commendation.  But a year later it came crashing down when an investigation that had been to trial was misleadingly reported in the media.  With support from colleagues, she came out the other side. CI Pook is clear that more must be done to tackle FGM.

The survivors and young people who live with this are the ones that inspire her to carry on doing what she is doing.