Legal Update: In a Nutshell - Professional body for police consults on FGM

Coram Children's Legal Centre
Monday, August 18, 2014

The College of Policing is consulting on the development of an Authorised Professional Practice on female genital mutilation.

What is the aim of the consultation?

The College of Policing - the professional body for policing in England and Wales - is developing and consulting on its draft Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on female genital mutilation (FGM). The general aims of the consultation are fourfold: to check the College's understanding of FGM; ensure that the content, format and tone of the APP are appropriate; to draw on the knowledge, skills and experience of stakeholders to develop the APP and identify best practice; and to raise awareness among the wider community, FGM-affected communities and key opinion formers of the learning material available to the police and general public. In addition, the consultation feedback form incorporates certain specific questions on issues that may be sensitive or controversial, including whether it is correct to refer to FGM as a form of honour-based violence, particularly where a girl is not unwilling, or actively wishes, to undergo the procedure.

What is the aim of the APP?

APP is the official source of professional practice on policing that is developed and authorised by the College of Policing. While police officers and staff are expected to have regard to APP in discharging their duties, the college considers that there may be circumstances where police officers and staff may legitimately deviate from the practice, provided there are clear reasons for doing so. Specifically regarding the APP on FGM, the consultation draft states that it aims to "raise awareness of and demystify the practice of FGM for officers and those they work with so that it can be more proactively prevented and prosecuted". What is the content of the draft APP?

The APP is divided into 10 sections. In addition to the introduction and information sections, it deals with the following topics: a table of FGM terms; the consequences of FGM; girls and women at risk of FGM; reasons why FGM are practiced; how FGM is carried out; FGM perpetrators; advice for officers working with communities that are affected by FGM; and tackling FGM (including prevention, protection and prosecution).

Why is this consultation important?

FGM is defined by the World Health Organization, Unicef and United National Population Fund as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". FGM is regarded by the NSPCC as a form of child abuse. It has been a criminal offence in England and Wales since 1985. Under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, it is now also a crime for a UK national or permanent UK resident to carry out, aid, abet, counsel or procure FGM against a person who is also a UK national, or permanent UK resident, abroad. Despite this, the Crown Prosecution Service only announced its first prosecutions of FGM in March 2014.

How do I participate in the consultation?

Stakeholders should review the draft APP and submit their comments either by post or email to the College of Policing using its feedback template, details of which are available on its website: app.college.police.uk/consultation/ female-genital-mutilation-consultation-consultation/.

The consultation closes on 30 September 2014.

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