Couple are first to be convicted of female genital mutilation, court told
Court heard victim and two siblings currently in care of their mother’s eldest sister
A married couple found guilty of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughter are the first in the country to be convicted of the offence, a court has heard.
The couple both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of carrying out an act of FGM on a then one-year-old girl at an address in Dublin on September 16th, 2016.
The 37-year-old man and 27-year-old woman also pleaded not guilty to one count of child cruelty on the same day. They are both originally from an African nation but cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.
On the eighth day of the trial, the jury returned unanimous verdicts of guilty on all counts after almost three hours of deliberations.
Detective Inspector Dany Kelly told Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that on the date in question, the accused man attended at a hospital with his daughter who was bleeding from her perineal region.
Det Insp Kelly said the accused man gave an explanation that the child had sustained the injury by falling backwards onto a toy. Medical professionals were of the view that this explanation was not credible and that the injuries were not accidental, counsel said.
Gardaí were notified and carried out a search of the accused’s family home. They seized the toy claimed to be responsible for inflicting the injury and no blood was found on the item following a forensic analysis.
Dr Sinead Harty gave evidence during the trial that in her professional opinion, the injury sustained was not consistent with falling on a toy. She said the head and glans of the victim’s clitoris had been completely removed.
In interview with gardaí, both accused denied that FGM had been carried out on their daughter. The victim’s father said he did not agree with the practice. His wife said she had been a victim of a different form of FGM herself.
The court heard that the victim and her two siblings are currently in the care of their mother’s eldest sister.
The court heard expert evidence that FGM is a cultural phenomenon that goes back many thousands of years and arising predominantly from East Africa. Dr Deborah Hodes said it has no nothing to do with religious beliefs and is absolutely not a principal of the Muslim faith.
Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending the father, said there are standard international classifications of FGM and that there are different categories of greater severity than the type in this case. He submitted this offence can be placed as not being the most serious kind of FGM.
Mr Fitzgerald said that in all respects, save for this act for which he has been convicted, his client had been a good, loving and caring father. He said there is no reason to believe his client is likely to be involved in criminality in the future.
He said when his client’s daughter was clearly in trouble, he brought her to hospital and made no attempt to try and wait it out. He said his client’s reaction, the fact that he went for help, is something that should go towards mitigation.
Patrick Gageby SC, defending the mother, said that his client is a married woman with three young children. He said that in all respects save this previous breach, his client appears to have been a very caring mother with well adjusted and healthy children.
Mr Gageby said there may be some irony in his client pleading that she is the mother of three small children in mitigation. He offered that courts have on occasion offered leniency to people in a position similar to his client.
He said this appears to be the first conviction under this statute. He asked the court to temper its public obligations with the requirement to visit a proportionate sentence on his client.
Judge Elma Sheahan adjourned the matter for finalisation on January 27, next.