London lawyers defend mother accused of female genital mutilation (FGM)
In one of the first cases in the London family courts since new laws were introduced to increase the protection afforded to potential victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), Dee Aktar, associate solicitor in the family law team at Miles & Partners Solicitors in the City of London, successfully defended an innocent mother falsely accused of carrying out this unlawful practice.
Had the allegations not proved to be untrue, the mother faced the prospect of up to five years in prison and the possibility of her child being taken into care.
Here, Dee explains what happened in the case after unsubstantiated claims of FGM were made by a father against the mother of his child as part on an ongoing battle following the parents’ separation.
The mother and father had married under Islamic law and had a daughter together. When they divorced, the child went to live with the mother. Contact between the child and her father was irregular and complaints of domestic violence were made. In June 2015, the mother obtained court orders to try to stop the father’s attempts to control and coerce her, and to also prevent him attending the child’s school or attempting to remove her from the mother’s care.
The case then took an unexpected twist when the father first alleged that his daughter had been subjected to FGM by her mother, and then, when this was proved not to be the case following a physical examination of the child, that she was instead at risk of being forced to undergo the procedure at some point in the future.
Claims of FGM are taken very seriously by the courts and because of this an immediate FGM Protection Order was made to ensure the child was kept safe and could not be taken abroad.
We at Miles & Partners also take claims of FGM seriously and it was important that the circumstances of this case were investigated thoroughly and both the mother and daughter treated with sensitivity and compassion. Although we were acting for the mother in this case, we also act for the victims of FGM and so know how important it is to support people who have been subjected to this procedure and who may feel scared about coming forward.
The allegations had a devastating impact on the mother who feared that every time she took her daughter away on holiday she would be faced with fresh accusations upon her return and the prospect of her daughter being subjected to successive intimate examinations. The mother and child needed to be able to travel freely as the mother had close relatives all over the world, including adult children from a previous marriage who she regularly visited.
In view of this Dee impressed upon the Judge the importance of determining as soon as possible whether the allegations had any substance to them.
The court considered all the available evidence, including statements taken from the mother and her grown-up children confirming they themselves had not undergone FGM, police reports concerning the mother’s allegations of domestic abuse, and court documents from previous hearings concerning the couple.
The father’s allegations were vague, and it was not entirely clear why he believed his daughter was at risk because the source of his allegations kept changing.
The court took all of this on board and ultimately decided that the father could not substantiate the allegations he had made. The Judge ordered that the restrictions that had been put in place should be removed and the mother exonerated from the claims against her.
“It was clear to us in this case that our client had been falsely accused, but it took a lot of evidence gathering and presentation of a strong legal defence to convince the court of this and to free our client from the cloud of suspicion hanging over her,” says Dee.
Dee is a specialist family lawyer, with over 10 years of experience in domestic violence and court protection orders – something which undoubtedly helped the client in this case and which demonstrates the importance of having an experienced family law practitioner at your side, particularly in divorce and child arrangements proceedings where tensions can run high and false accusations made.
It was also hugely beneficial to the client that Dee is an experienced care proceedings lawyer, who knows the care system well and is used to acting for both parents and children, either independently or via appointment by the child’s guardian.
Being subjected to FGM is a serious matter, but so too is being falsely accused of it. The laws governing this area are complex and are intended to catch not only those who carry out the procedure but also anyone who aids, abets, counsels, procures, encourages or assists it. Protection for victims and those at risk is available and can be used to put in place a range of prohibitions, restrictions and requirements to ensure a girl or woman’s safety. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 was amended in 2015 to increase and strengthen the level of protection available.
If you need advice about an FGM Protection Order, Domestic Violence Protection Order or any other family law matter, including care proceedings, please contact Dee Aktar in our family law team on 020 7426 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can talk to us in confidence and in the knowledge that you will be treated with care and compassion.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.