From 31 October onwards, regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales will have a mandatory requirement to report visually confirmed or verbally disclosed cases of FGM in girls under 18 to the police.
The duty was introduced through the Serious Crime Act 2015, following a public consultation. The Home Office has been working with professional bodies and the police to prepare for its introduction.
To help professionals understand and comply with the duty, the Home Office is also publishing guidance which sets out the legal requirements it places on them and the process to follow for making reports. It also contains an overview of the action which may be taken if they fail to comply with the duty.
The guidance also includes information for the police on what to do when they receive a report.
Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said:
FGM is a crime and it is child abuse, and this Government will not tolerate a practice that can cause extreme and lifelong physical and psychological suffering to women and girls.
The duty is an important step forward in tackling this practice, and we believe that it will make sure professionals have the confidence to confront FGM.
There is clear evidence that existing systems are not yielding appropriate referrals to the police. We need to ensure that where a serious crime has been committed, the police are informed and can instigate an appropriate multi-agency response to protect girls and bring perpetrators to justice.
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, and while there has been a recent increase in police investigations, to date there have been no successful prosecutions.
The government believes the new mandatory reporting duty will help increase the number of reports of FGM to the police from professionals. It is hoped this will lead to both a better safeguarding response to help protect victims, and that it will secure prosecutions, recognising FGM for the serious crime that it is and deterring potential perpetrators.
And last July, the Prime Minister hosted the Girl Summit 2014, which laid the groundwork for a new package of action and funding to protect millions of girls at home and abroad from female genital mutilation and forced marriage. The new duty is one strand of a wide range of measures the government has taken to help stop FGM:
new FGM Protection Orders for victims or potential victims came into force in July 2015. An order may include, for example, a requirement for a passport to be surrendered to prevent a girl being taken abroad for FGM.
a new offence of failing to protect girls at risk of FGM carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
we have also introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of FGM, to help give individuals who have had this appalling crime committed against them the confidence to speak out.
in March, the College of Policing issued new guidance to the police to raise awareness amongst investigators and make sure they have the information they need to tackle FGM effectively.
an inspection on the police response to honour based violence, with a focus on FGM, will report next month.
the Home Office’s FGM unit is providing outreach support to local areas to strengthen their ability to tackle FGM, working with the voluntary and community sector, survivors and professionals, and coordinating work on this issue across government.
last year the government funded 29 community engagement projects, including a network of community champions, who are reaching thousands of women and girls affected by FGM, and their families.
over the past two years, we have provided resources for frontline professionals, including: a resource pack, e-learning, updated multi-agency guidelines and distributed over 600,000 communication materials.