A woman has been found guilty of handing over a three-year-old British girl for female genital mutilation (FGM) during a trip to Kenya in a legal first.
Following an Old Bailey trial, Amina Noor, 39, was convicted of assisting a non-UK person to carry out the procedure overseas 17 years ago.
This is the very first conviction of its kind under the FGM Act of 2003 and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
To date, the only other successful prosecution was in 2019 when a Ugandan woman from Walthamstow, east London, was jailed for 11 years for cutting a three-year-old girl.
Senior crown prosecutor Patricia Strobino hailed Noor’s conviction saying: “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.”
Previously, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC said Noor had travelled to Kenya with the girl in 2006, and while there took her to a private house where the child was subjected to FGM.
The crime only came to light years later when the girl was aged 16 and confided in her English teacher at school.
When spoken to, the defendant said she thought the procedure was just an injection and afterwards the girl was “happy and able to run around and play”.
But when examined in 2019, it emerged that in fact the girl’s clitoris had been completely removed.
Noor appeared “shocked and upset” and said that was not what she thought was going to happen.
According to an initial account, Noor described going with another woman to a “clinic” where the girl was called into a room for a procedure.
The defendant said she was invited in but refused because she was “scared and worried”.
Afterwards, the girl appeared quiet and cried the whole night and complained of pain, according to the account.
In a later police interview under caution, Noor denied that anyone had made threats against her before FGM was done to the girl.
Ms Heer said: “She was asked whether, when she arrived at the clinic or even before then, she felt she did not want it to happen.
“She said, ‘Yeah I thought about it but then, you know, got it done’.”
Jurors were told 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 aged 16 when she came to the United Kingdom and was later granted British citizenship.
The defendant described what had been done to the girl as “Sunnah”, meaning “tradition” or “way” in Arabic, and said it was a practice that had gone on for cultural reasons for many years.
Ms Heer agreed it was widespread and “everyone had it done” in the defendant’s community.
“However, that very common practice is not limited to piercing or pricking.
“In fact, 87% of women and girls who had undergone FGM in Kenya had their genitalia cut, with some flesh removed,” she said.
The court was told that 94% of females of Somali origin living in Kenya undergo the procedure, according to United Nations figures.
Ms Heer said there was no dispute that the girl had been subjected to FGM outside the UK by a Kenyan lady, nor that the alleged victim was a UK citizen.
She alleged Noor had “encouraged and assisted” in the offence and cast doubt on her claim that she only expected the girl to be “pricked” to draw blood.
Ms Heer said: “Not only was the procedure carried out upon (the girl), the excision of the clitoris, a very common type of FGM, but the defendant had been discussing precisely the kind of FGM before she took (the girl) to that clinic.”
The prosecutor told jurors: “You will wish to consider the defendant’s behaviour at the time and whether she genuinely did not want (the girl) to be circumcised.
“After all, it does not appear that she ever refused.
“It is striking that she asked no questions when the clinic turned out to be a normal house.
“She did not inquire whether the people were doctors, or that they were qualified to do what they were supposed to do.
“She did not insist on being present when (the girl) was called into the treatment room.
“She did not talk to the Kenyan lady about what procedure would be carried out.
“After the event, she did not look at (the girl’s) wound and said (she) did not appear to be in pain.
“Given what we know had been done to (the girl), can that be true?
“Or has the defendant sought to minimise her responsibility?”
Giving evidence in her trial, Noor, from Harrow, north-west London, said she was threatened with being “cursed” and “disowned” within her community if she did not take part.
She told jurors the threat gave her “pain”, and added: “That was a pressure I had no power to do anything about.”
The alleged victim, who is now aged 21, cannot be identified for legal reasons.
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