A jury has found a married couple guilty of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughter.
The couple 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 man (37) and woman (27) 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.
Judge Elma Sheahan thanked the jury members for their care and attention in what she said was a difficult case.
Following the convictions, Det Insp Danny Kelly told the court he objected to bail for both accused based on the seriousness of the charge and the potential of a flight risk. He said there was a deportation order in place for the man that is under appeal and that the woman was an Irish citizen.
The court heard the couple’s three children, including the victim in this case, are in the care of the woman’s sister.
Det Insp Kelly said in the event the accused were remanded in custody, the children would remain in their aunt’s custody if the Tusla child agency was satisfied with the arrangement.
Judge Sheahan remanded both accused in custody and adjourned the matter for sentencing on December 20th.
During the trial, the accused man said that on the morning of September 16th, 2016, the family woke up at about 11am. He noticed his daughter had a “dirty nappy” and asked his wife to clean her.
He said his daughter came back from the bathroom no longer wearing a nappy and he showed her a ball with lights on it. He said his daughter ran backwards and he turned around.
The accused man said he heard his daughter crying and he picked her up to try to calm her. He said his wife came out of the bathroom and said she saw something between her daughter’s legs which he realised was blood.
Dr Sri Paran, the consultant surgeon who operated on the child, said she was bleeding from just above where he would expect the clitoris to be and he observed that the clitoral head was absent.
Dr Paran said the bleeding was “not planning on stopping any time soon”. Had the bleeding not been stopped, by the following morning the child would have had difficulty breathing and would have gone into shock after about 20 hours.
Dr Deborah Hodes told the trial she helped to establish a clinic specialising in identifying and treating those suspected to have undergone FGM and to the best of her knowledge this was the only such clinic in the UK and Ireland. She said she has probably seen about 80 cases of such mutilation.
Removal of tissue
Dr Hodes said her observations of the child’s injury were consistent with FGM. She said what she saw was consistent with the cutting and removal of tissue.
She said the explanation that the child sustained the injury by falling on a toy did not fit with the clinical findings and it was not possible that falling backwards on to the toy would result in the level of damage caused.
Dr John Hoade, a scientist who works in the DNA section of Forensic Science Ireland, said he examined the child’s toy found at the address. “I found no blood on the toy,” Dr Hoade said.