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Father convicted of FGM of daughter to appeal his sentence

The man and his wife were jailed in January, in the first case of its kind in Ireland.

A FATHER CONVICTED of allowing female genital mutilation (FGM) to be carried out on his daughter, in the first case of its kind in the nation’s history, is to appeal his conviction and sentence.

The 37-year-old was sentenced to five and a half years in prison by Judge Elma Sheahan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in January.

He was also sentenced to three years in prison on a count of child cruelty which the judge ordered to run concurrently with the other sentence.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty to one count of FGM on his daughter, who was then 21 months old, at an address in Dublin on 16 September 2016. He had also pleaded not guilty to one count of child cruelty on the same day.

The man is originally from East Africa but cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.

James MacGuill, solicitor for the appellant, today applied to the Court of Appeal to come on record and asked for a copy of the digital audio recording of his client giving evidence through an interpreter at his trial late last year.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), John Byrne BL, said he was not opposing the application.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham acceded to the request.

‘Severe and invasive’

The girl’s mother was sentenced to four years and nine months years in prison for the FGM charge, and two years and nine months for the neglect charge. The sentences will also run concurrently.

Passing sentence on the man and his wife earlier this year, Judge Sheahan noted that the offence of FGM carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

She said it was important to repeat that this practice is not religious, but rather a cultural belief stemming from the “mistaken belief” it will help the child rather than cause physical and psychological harm.

Judge Sheahan said the child underwent a “severe and invasive procedure without cause” and this would have a real impact on her life in the future. She said the true significance of what had occurred may not become apparent for years to come.

She said the court had no explanation or understanding for why the offence was committed in this particular way to this particular child, nor was it known how it was done or under what conditions the act was performed.

The accused had denied the charges and maintained the child injured herself accidentally by falling on a toy play centre – a claim disputed by medical experts during the course of the trial last November.

Judge Sheahan said the court had concerns regarding the couple’s lack of insight and remorse.

She said the case was aggravated by the nature of the offence itself involving the procurement by both parents of the services of a third party to perform surgical intervention “neither medically warranted nor justifiable”.

Judge Sheahan said it was further compounded by “the most egregious breaches of trust”. She said the court viewed this offence as being not an act born out of anger or loss of self control, but an act carried out in a premeditated and planned manner.

She said the appropriate headline sentence in the absence of mitigation was a term of imprisonment of seven years for both accused.

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Judge Sheahan said the mitigating factors in the case were the previous good character of both accused, that they had brought the child for medical care and that prison was more difficult for foreign nationals.

She noted that prison “may be more difficult” for the accused because of the type of offending involved. She noted the effect losing their parents can have on children.

With reporting by Órla Ryan.

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Alison O'Riordan

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