Whittington Hospital figures reveal almost 400 cases of female genital mutilation locally
PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 March 2014
© Nigel Sutton
The country’s top prosecutor has called for healthcare and educational staff to be required by law to report suspected female genital mutilation (FGM) to police – after the first UK prosecution was brought against a Whittington doctor.
Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said she would like to see a statutory requirement to report suspected cases of FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of a girl’s external genitals.
She spoke at a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing last week just days after charges were brought against Dr Dhanoun Dharmasena, 31, of Ilford, by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Dr Dharmasena is alleged to have carried out the procedure on a woman who had given birth at the Whittington, in Magdala Avenue, Archway, and was charged with an offence contrary to the Female Genital Mutilation Act.
A second man, Hasan Mohamed, 40, of Holloway, who is not a medic, was also charged.
* Female genital cutting, commonly referred to as female genital mutilation, is the partial or total removal of a girl’s external genitals.
* Her body is physically damaged when the healthy tissue of her genitals is cut away. There are no health benefits.
* Complex cultural and social reasons are often given to explain why it is practised.
* It has harmful effects on the health and wellbeing of a woman throughout her life.
* The UN estimates that 125 million women and girls worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
Ms Saunders said: “It was alleged that following a patient giving birth in November 2012, a doctor at the Whittington Hospital repaired FGM that had previously been performed on the patient, allegedly carrying out FGM himself.
“Having carefully considered all the available evidence, I have determined there is sufficient evidence and it would be in the public interest to prosecute. I have also determined that Hasan Mohamed should face one charge of intentionally encouraging an offence of FGM.”
The pair will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on April 15.
A spokesman for Whittington Health, the trust that runs the hospital, said concerns raised by clinicians in 2012 following a patient giving birth at the hospital’s maternity unit were reported to police and an immediate internal sinvestigation launched.
Figures obtained by the BBC show that 390 cases of FGM were recorded by the Whittington Hospital between 2010 and 2013. Some 98 per cent of these were women from the Somali community.
The director of public prosecutions told the MPs select committee hearing on Tuesday that a lack of referrals from professionals, such as healthcare staff, was partly behind the low number of FGM prosecutions.
She said: “If you wait for... the archetypal young girl to come through the door to tell you about what’s just happened to her, that her family have put her through, that’s not going to happen.”
She wrote to ministers in February urging that a mandatory requirement to report FGM be introduced.
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone has campaigned on FGM in her role as a junior minister at the Department for International Development (DFID).
Last March, at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, she launched a £35million fund to support the anti FGM African-led movement.
“I am very optimistic now that we are on our way now to end this harmful practise,” she wrote on her blog on Sunday.
* An NSPCC FGM helpline offers support to anybody who might be at risk or has been affected by FGM. Telephone 0800 028 3550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.