A Ugandan woman last week became the first person in Britain to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, over an assault on her three-year-old daughter.
The woman, aged 37, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has lived in the UK for several years. FGM is banned in both countries.
The landmark trial at the Old Bailey court in London heard that the mother telephoned for an ambulance, claiming the girl had fallen on a metal strip. However, doctors said the cuts were made with a sharp implement and could not be explained by a fall.
The mother was told she would be sentenced on March 8 and could expect “a lengthy jail term.” She wept in the dock.
According to experts, FGM is being performed increasingly on babies and infants in this country. Barrister Charlotte Proudman told the Victoria Derbyshire TV programme that it was “almost impossible to detect” as the girls were not in school or old enough to report it.
FGM involves injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Practised routinely in parts of Africa and Asia, it has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985.
However, until now, nobody had been convicted.
Dr Proudman said there was “a lot of anecdotal data which shows FGM is now being performed on babies. These girls are not at school or nursery so it is very difficult for any authority to become aware. By performing it at such a young age, they are evading the law.”
Figures seen by the television programme showed that 939 calls were made to report FGM between 2014 and 2018, while a London University report from 2015 estimated that 137,000 women and girls in England had been victims of the procedure.
There were calls for Britain to follow France’s tougher stance. There, all children undergo regular genital checks up to the age of six and doctors are expected to report any evidence of abuse.
* * *
As excuses go, it was up there with “the dog ate my homework.”
Accused of stealing £150 of gammon from a meat store, Adam Johnson told police, “A man with a knife said, ‘I’m going to slash you unless you go and steal the meat.’”
But when a shot of him stealing the food appeared on Facebook, Johnson, from Sunderland, pleaded guilty. He was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £150 for the gammon.
Abdulrahman Alcharbati of Newcastle upon Tyne reached out for a higher level of innocence. Accused of encouraging acts of terrorism by posting ISIS videos on his Facebook account, he told the court he believed he was Jesus Christ.
He was jailed for seven years.
Finally, driver Craig McFarlane had been disqualified for 46 months back in 2015 when police spotted him behind the wheel again last year.
His excuse: he thought the ban was for 46 weeks.
McFarlane, from Blyth, was fined £530 and banned for a further 10 months.
The taxman gets his share of oddball excuses, too. According to a report from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, one citizen said he couldn’t mail his tax return on time because his mother-in-law had put a spell on him; another said it was too cold to type and a third said he was too short to reach the post box.
* * *
It is not often the courts send a 79-year-old woman to prison but Kathleen Neal was found guilty of a “campaign of intimidation” against her neighbour involving seven breaches of an injunction placed on her in 2016.
Evidence was given at Nottingham County Court that Neal sprayed weed killer and poured urine on plants belonging to her neighbour, Susan Brookes, that she lit smoky bonfires in her garden and conducted a campaign of silent phone calls against Susan and her husband Keith.
“She was the neighbour from hell,” Mrs Brookes said, “Once when we were on holiday she chopped down a tree and threw it into our garden. After that, we were afraid to go away.”
Mrs Brookes said she had no idea what sparked the harassment but suspected that Neal considered the Brookes to be lower-class people.
The neighbour from hell was jailed for 28 days and ordered to pay legal costs of £4,323.
* * *
The truck driver was stopped by a little red man who said, “I’m from Mars and I’m hungry.” Amazed, the driver gave him a sandwich and moved on.
Before long, he saw a brown man, who said, “I’m from Pluto and I’m thirsty.” The driver thrust a bottle of water at him.
A hundred yards further on, it was a blue man. Demanded the driver angrily, “So what planet are you from and what do you want?”
The blue man said, “Please step out of the cab, sir, and show me your driving licence.”