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 the first conviction of its kind.
After a trial at the Old Bailey, Amina Noor, 39, was convicted of assisting a Kenyan woman to carry out the procedure in 2006. The conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, is the first for assisting in such harm under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
The only other successful prosecution under the act was in 2019 when a Ugandan woman from Walthamstow, east London, was jailed for 11 years for cutting a three-year-old girl.
Campaigners said the verdict showed that the introduction in 2015 of mandatory reporting of suspected FGM was working.
The 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.”
Strobino 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 is 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, the prosecutor Deanna Heer KC said Noor 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 16 and confided in her English teacher at school.
When spoken to, the defendant said she thought the procedure was just an injection and that afterwards the girl was “happy and able to run around and play”. But when examined in 2019, it emerged that the girl’s clitoris had been removed.
Noor appeared “shocked and upset” and said that was not what she had thought was going to happen, Heer said. 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.
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 Somalia. She was 16 when she came to the UK 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.
Giving evidence in her trial, Noor, from Harrow, in north-west London, said she was threatened with being “cursed” and “disowned” within her community if she did not take part. She told jurors that the threat gave her “pain”, adding: “That was a pressure I had no power to do anything about.”
The alleged victim, who is now 21, cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Nimco Ali, an FGM survivor who founded the Five Foundation, a global partnership to end the cutting of girls, welcomed the verdict.
She said: “It is incredible that the mandatory reporting by teachers and healthcare professionals – that we have fought hard for – is starting to pay off. A girl was obviously failed. She was let down by the system but she got some form of justice today thanks to the policies that we now have in place.”
She added: “We have to address FGM in the UK and everywhere by working together to address the root causes of the issue.”
Research in 2014 estimated that 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales. Ali said this estimate needed updating urgently.