The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first to be convicted of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK, after a failed bid to “shut up” her accusers with witchcraft.
The Ugandan woman, 37, and her Ghanaian partner, 43, both from Walthamstow, east London, were accused of cutting their daughter over the 2017 summer bank holiday.
Police found bizarre spells inside 40 frozen limes and two ox tongues with screws embedded in them aimed at silencing police, social workers, officers and lawyers in the case.
The defendants, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied FGM and an alternative charge of failing to protect a girl from risk of genital mutilation.
The mother wept in the dock as she was found guilty of FGM and her partner was cleared of all charges after the Old Bailey jury deliberated for less than a day.
Carrying out FGM carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Mrs Justice Whipple warned of a “lengthy” jail term as she remanded the woman into custody to be sentenced on March 8.
She told her: “You have been found guilty of a serious offence against your daughter.”
The law was introduced in 1985 and has since been amended to include assisting and taking children abroad to be cut.
There have been just three other trials involving FGM – two in London and one in Bristol – which all ended in acquittals while some 298 prevention orders have been put in place to safeguard children at risk.
The two defendants were jointly accused of subjecting their girl to FGM by “deliberate cutting with a sharp instrument” at her mother’s dirty home in the presence of her father, who lived close by.
The Old Bailey trial heard how medics raised the alarm when the girl was taken to Whipps Cross Hospital with severe bleeding.
A surgeon concluded the child had been cut with a scalpel on finding three separate sites of injury but no bruising or swelling of her genitals or thighs.
The defendants told authorities that their daughter had been reaching for a biscuit when she fell and cut herself on the edge of a kitchen cupboard.
But the victim later confided in specially trained officers that she had been cut by a “witch” following a series of videoed interviews played to court.
Her older brother told police he saw his sister crying and “blood dripping on the floor”.
Medical experts also confirmed the cause of her injuries was consistent with cutting rather than an accidental fall.
While the parents were on bail, police searched the unemployed mother’s home and found evidence of witchcraft.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC had said “Two cow tongues, they were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them, 40 limes were found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them.
“The names embedded included both police officers involved in the investigation of the case, the social worker, her own son and the then director of public prosecutions.
“These people were to ‘shut up’ and ‘freeze their mouths’. There was a jar with a picture of a social worker in pepper found hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom. Another spell was hidden under the bed.”
Giving evidence, the mother maintained her account of an accidental injury and told jurors: “It’s a big accusation. Someone who would cut a child’s private parts, they’re not human. I’m not like that.”
She told jurors that she resorted to spells because “cutting your child, that’s not something for any person. So, as a mother, I knew I did not do it.”
The father denied having an interest in “voodoo” or “witchcraft” and claimed he was outside when his daughter was hurt.
However, the court heard FGM would need more than one person to do it, although police have not identified anyone else in the case.
The father told jurors he accepted his partner’s explanation at first but now accepted she had been cut.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Baker, of the Met’s child abuse and sexual offences command, said: “We cannot lose sight this is a case about a very young girl who was subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of two defendants, her parents.
“I would like to acknowledge her bravery since her ordeal and I’m pleased to say she has made a very good recovery and been placed with another family.”
Mr Baker refused to rule out the involvement of a third party in the Walthamstow case but said investigators found no evidence to present at court.
He said none of his officers had suffered any ill effects that could be explained by spells.
The Met’s FGM lead, Inspector Allen Davis, said the case should serve as a deterrent but maintained his focus on prevention.
On why so few cases have come to court, he said: “Many individual of ‘honour’ based abuse just want to feel safe. This is a massive barrier to people giving evidence against their mum. People do not necessarily want to see their mums go to prison.
“This is an issue around honour and shame and we are dealing with communities that be quite closed. It’s a real challenge for people to stand up and talk about what’s happening in communities when it might mean they face ostracisation.”
“It is the physical damage and emotional damage as well. It can be very, very damaging. The person who should be protecting them in the first place has usually arranged and facilitated it. How can you rebuild that link to the person that should be protecting you?”
Type II female genital mutilation, of the type inflicted on the toddler, involves the mutilation of the clitoris and removal of the labia minora, the court heard.
Immediate effects include bleeding, severe pain, shock and susceptibility to infection, with long-term impacts including gynaecological problems, reduced sexual enjoyment, higher risk pregnancies and mental health problems.