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Female Genital Mutilation: Prosecution

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2019

6. What discussions he has had with the Crown Prosecution Service on improving prosecution rates for people responsible for female genital mutilation. (909715)

Last night, the House unanimously passed legislation to further protect women and girls from the horrific crime of FGM, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Faversham and Kent served on the Bill Committee that was part of the passage of that legislation through the House. My hon. Friend asked particularly about improving prosecution rates, and I am pleased to tell her that each CPS area now has a lead FGM prosecutor. Those prosecutors will be working with their local police forces on arrangements for the investigation and prosecution of FGM offences.

The voice of Faversham and Mid Kent, rather than of Mid Faversham and Kent; I call Helen Whately.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for her support for the FGM Bill that was passed last night and for her work in this policy area. As she knows, as many as 137,000 women and girls in the UK have suffered from FGM. I urge her to take further action to make sure that we end FGM in the UK.

My hon. Friend is not only a constituency MP in Faversham and Kent but the Conservative party vice-chair for women. She makes a really important point about the number of women who have suffered from this crime in the UK, pointing out that 137,000 women living in the UK right now are suffering the consequences of FGM. Some of those women had the crime inflicted on them here, while others had it inflicted on them in other countries, so our response needs to be two-pronged. First, we need to ensure that we support other countries, which the Department for International Development is doing—it recently made the largest single donation of £50 million to help countries overseas. Secondly, we need to tackle it in this country. We are taking a cross-governmental view, with many Departments taking action, from the Department for Education to the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Care, and of course my Department is enacting legislation.

In general terms, when it comes to domestic abuse and so forth, cases take far too long. What is the Minister doing about that?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the importance of all cases that come to court. Obviously, for those who have been the victim of horrific sexual crimes, including domestic violence, we are committed to ensuring that those crimes come to court and are dealt with swiftly. There are a number of ways to do that, including by using judicial resource. We recently saw a significant increase in the number of hours allocated to judicial sittings in the family court. Listing is a judicial matter, but in some courts those trials are fixed for particular days, whereas other cases float and and may come on that day or be adjourned to a later date.