Crime & the Law

Woman arrested at Heathrow Airport on day of ‘zero tolerence’ against female genital mutilation

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A 42-year-old woman has been arrested for conspiracy to commit Female Genital Mutilation known as FGM at Heathrow Airport.

The Met Police says she was stopped by officers carrying out an FGM awareness operation with colleagues from the UK Border Force.

The arrested person has been described as ‘a British national, born in Zimbabwe.’

She was stopped at a quarter past noon prior to leaving the UK on a flight to Ghana via Amsterdam.

She was taken to a west London police station and subsequently transferred to Northamptonshire Police for further inquiry.

An eight-year-old girl travelling with the woman has been taken into the care of social services.

The arrest took place on a day when the Met Police had been carrying out a proactive operation at the country’s largest airport in support of ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.’

Specialist officers from the Met’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command were at Heathrow carrying out preventative and detection work in relation to both inbound and outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’ for FGM.

Educational and enforcement activities, included:

  • Preventative work with passengers on outbound flights to ‘countries of prevalence’, including distribution of health passports;
  • Intelligence-led checks on passengers and searches of baggage;
  • Engagement with passengers from communities affected by this crime;
  • Identifying possible offences in order to take action against those responsible.

Officers spoke to passengers on a flight which came in from Kenya as well as on flights going to Ghana, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

Copies of the Home Office ‘health passport’ were handed out.

Page from the Home Office 'Health Passport' on FGM distributed to travellers in English and other languages.

Page from the Home Office ‘Health Passport’ on FGM distributed to travellers in English and other languages.

DCI Jane Scotchbrook from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command said:

Today’s activity is one aspect of our continued efforts to raise awareness of this form of child abuse, its associated immediate and long term health risks, and the absence of any religious teaching that supports its undertaking.

Our focus is on targeting those communities where offences of FGM are prevalent, by engaging with passengers travelling to and from countries where the offence is practised. We hope to educate and prevent anyone who may engage in FGM, as well as highlighting the support available to those who may be at risk.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF,  have released a video titled ‘A childhood without FGM’ as part of a global educational campaign.

UNICEF says: ‘Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a universal problem and is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America. ‘

What is FGM? A victim campaigning group ‘Justice for FGM Victims UK’ has produced a short animation explaining the practice which has been a crime in the UK since 2003.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it illegal to participate in any sort of arrangement for FGM to be performed on another, either inside or outside the UK. Those who are involved in any way – be it aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or carrying out FGM inside or outside the UK can face 14 years imprisonment.

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