Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [11]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Kit Malthouse
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Question

Commissioner, Mr Mayor, a variety of questions from me.  First of all, just on the FGM one, do you have any sense of the level of resources that are currently applied to this particular issue, how many officers, is there a team of 20 or 200?

Answer

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [11]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [11]

Answered By: 
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

There is no dedicated team, there is not a team sat there just doing FGM.  These are dealt with by the Sexual Offences Unit, of which, as I am sure you know, of a few hundred people in that unit scattered around London.  Therefore it is part of their role rather than a dedicated unit.

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  All right, however I remember us having a conversation where I posed the question to you that, if little boys were appearing across London with their little finger cut off on a systematic basis in dozens and dozens, there would probably be a task force to try to do something about it.  Do you think we merit in forming up a specialist group, not least because there are obviously other harmful cultural practices that we have talked about in the past that might deserve more focus?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  It is certainly something worth considering.  We have not yet, but, as you know, one of the difficulties we have is that, for every one that someone like me answers a question like that and says, “Yes, we will have another unit”, that means less on response, it means less on community policing, therefore getting that balance right is difficult, however it is something we should consider.

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  I guess the question I am asking is exactly to try to tease out the level of prominence to which the offence is given.  I guess part of the issue, would you say, is that the data is not entirely clear, and while there are reports from the hospitals about the number of women who present in maternity, for instance, with signs of FGM, that it is not entirely clear.  I know for instance that, if people present with a gunshot wound at hospital, that has to be reported by law.  Do you think there are other things, such as FGM, that should be reportable to the police, so we can at least have a true picture?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  First of all, yes, the point about should we have a dedicated unit, I will reflect on, I think it is a fair challenge and a fair question.  It would have to be cut out probably from the present Sexual Offences Unit, however I think we can consider how that happens.

 

Second, just to reassure you, I mean certainly personally I have been committed over this last 18 months, as I have come to know more about the issue, to make sure that we treat it very seriously.  Therefore we have had operations run at Heathrow where we know that there are flights, which are likely to take girls to the Middle East for this operation, to try to spot them, even though we do not have the intelligence.  Therefore we have done an awful lot to (1) get reports and (2) do something about it.  That includes a relationship and a partnership with CPS.  Therefore I think we can show we are taking it seriously.

 

Then, sorry, the third part was?

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  The data, whether you think more  should be reported.

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Yes, sorry.  I think part of the Government’s proposals at the moment are to make it a duty for those who had information about a victim of FGM to report it and I support that.  It seems to me that, it is very hard to believe, is it not, that either as adults of children that these girls and women are not going through the medical system.  If anybody has medical treatment, they often have problems with infections, these are people who have been treated in circumstances that certainly are not top quality clinical conditions.  They must be appearing, and we have heard cases of reinstituted FGM after childbirth.  Now, it must be that someone is spotting this when they are in childbirth.  Our broad point is, whether it be health of education, we need those reports.  We need to handle it sensitively.

 

The only final thing, because it is always easier for me to answer that question saying, “Yes, of course we must have reports”, what we always know for doctors, they are very concerned, if someone needs medical attention they need to be confident to get it rather than worry about the consequences through the criminal justice system, and I have always respected that, whether it is a gunshot wound, it is better someone gets treated than it is that they are frightened and staying at home and not getting that treatment.  Therefore I think you always have to strike that balance, but even the anonymised data would be helpful.

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  Yes, I hesitate to pick a scab, however I am conscious that probably more has been spent on phone hacking over the last couple of years than has been spent on detecting and prosecuting FGM.

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  That is often a thing thrown about.

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  However I will let that lie.

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Of course it did require two parliament --

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  Just a couple of other on -- sorry.

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Well you made a comment, OK.

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  Sorry.

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Yes, it did require two or three Parliamentary Committees, one Public Inquiry, to insist that investigation was --

 

Kit Malthouse AM:  I am not positing any of the blame necessarily on the police, however I made this point several times and was roundly criticised by other politicians for doing that.