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Parents found guilty in Ireland's first female genital mutilation trial

Judge Elma Sheahan has remanded the couple in custody.

File photo of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.
File photo of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE PARENTS OF a young girl who is deemed to have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) have been found guilty of allowing the act to take place.

After deliberating for two hours and 50 minutes, a jury of eight men and four women today found the married couple guilty of FGM and of a separate charge of neglect related to the same incident on 16 September 2016.

The jury’s decision was unanimous.

The couple, who can’t be named for legal reasons, are the first people to be convicted of carrying out FGM in Ireland.

The practice, which refers to the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons, has been outlawed here since 2012.

The couple will be sentenced on 20 December. 

The man, aged in his 30s, and the woman, aged in her 20s, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. They had claimed their daughter, who was just under two years old at the time, sustained her injuries after falling onto a toy while not wearing a nappy at the family’s Dublin home.

This version of events was disputed by three medical experts over the course of the trial, which began before Judge Elma Sheahan at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last week.

The State did not argue that the couple carried out FGM on their daughter themselves, rather that “aided and abetted, counselled or procured FGM” to take place.

Remanded in custody 

Judge Sheahan this afternoon ruled that both of the accused will be remanded in custody. The State had objected to bail being granted.

Inspector Daniel Kelly confirmed to the court that the couple have been on bail since their release after being questioned by gardaí in 2016. He said they have met the bail conditions to date including paying a €300 cash bond, surrendering their passports and signing on at a local garda station twice a week.

Kelly said he objected to bail on two grounds – the seriousness of the charge and the potential flight risk, noting that people can travel to the UK without a passport.

He told the court the female accused is an Irish citizen, but that the male accused is the subject of a deportation order which is under appeal.

The couple have three young children, the youngest of whom is 11 months old and still being breastfed by the female accused, the defence noted.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has been involved in the case since 2016.

Sheahan said she is “fully aware” of the fact young children are involved and said it is “a matter for the prosecution to take the appropriate steps in this regard”.

The judge thanked the jury for their service in what she described as a “difficult” case, and exempted them from jury duty for six years. 

‘Story didn’t match’ 

The couple took their daughter to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin (OLCHC) on 16 September 2016 and asked for immediate assistance because she was bleeding.

The young girl had to undergo surgery to stop the bleeding, the court heard.

Professor Thambipillai Sri Paran, the paediatric surgeon who carried out the procedure, last week told the court he believed the injury the girl sustained was non-accidental. Part of the girl’s clitoris was missing, consistent with FGM Type 1, the court heard.

The toy the girl was alleged to have fallen on is an activity centre with a steering wheel and other protruding objects but no sharp edges, the court was told.

“The story didn’t match the injury that I saw,” Paran said last week, adding: “When the story and the injury doesn’t tally, we know we are legally obliged to raise the alarm.”

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

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Órla Ryan

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