Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [10]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)


I would like to ask a question about the Metropolitan Police Service’s capacity to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) now that Department of Health statistics show that London accounts for over half of all FGM cases in England, and I wanted to ask the Commissioner, given we heard last month that ten out of 12 FGM cases put forward by the MPS to the CPS have fallen, are you concerned at the ability we have to prosecute the cases and what lessons have you taken from this for the future?


Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [10]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [10]

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

OK, I do not have the numbers in front of me, therefore I am going to have to do my best to answer your question.  First of all I think the big challenge is to get it reported because we have just not seen the reports coming through, either from the victims, which is difficult if it is a child, or from those who know the victims.  We have not seen reports come in from public service, from health, education, when it is clear that there is information out there that children are being treated in this way.


The same thing is, then we need to investigate sensitively, not sensitively against the suspect, however sensitively on behalf of the victim, because of course often this is arranged by parents and occasionally carried out by family members.  Therefore those are the challenges.


We have the largest number of investigations in the country and we are making the most cases to the CPS and I know that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the head of the CPS in London are dedicated to trying to get the charges in these difficult cases.  I believe we already have one charge, which is going through to court, of a medical practitioner.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes, however I am sure you will agree, it is quite worrying if 10 out of 12 cases are not taken forward by the CPS.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  It would be, and the only reason I am hesitating to go any further is, unless you look at each case, it can be that there are difficulties with the case, it could be an investigation problem, it could be the fact a witness does not come up to proof, or it could be that there is a public interest test that I am not aware of.  I am happy to look at each of those.


Fiona Twycross AM:  If you could look at it, because I think there is obviously a huge concern about the practice, and I think people would really like to see some of these cases prosecuted in much higher numbers.  Because even the cases that have been taken forward only account for a tiny proportion of the reported incidents.


Now, the other point I wanted to raise with you, Commissioner, was that it has been suggested that, due to the growing burden on the MPS due to historical child sex abuse cases, that you are overstretched in this area generally.  Do you require more resources in order to enable you to tackle FGM effectively?


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)):  I am not sure about FGM.  I think sexual offences generally, as I was explaining earlier, we have moved resources from, for example, homicide and other serious crime, into sexual offences generally.  Because of the first point you made, the volume of reports, it is not yet I think a volume problem.  I think we can cope with extra reports of FGM.  What we are struggling with particularly is the historical allegations of sexual offences, and then the more recent ones.  It is a good thing in the sense that I hope people are more confident to report in more of what is happening.  Therefore we are going to have to seriously think about putting more resources in there, we have already put some in, and it may be we have to put more in there.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  I think that one of the things I am concerned about is obviously that if you have ten out of 12 cases dropped, I mean if you look at sort of sexual offences more generally, one of the things that puts people off reporting it is if they report it and then things are not carried through, it sort of puts people off in the future.


I just wanted to ask the Mayor about the funding for your Harmful Practice pilot and obviously we welcome this and I know you were applying to the Department for Education for a further £200,000 up to 2016 for specialist social workers.  If you are not successful in this bid, will this threaten the pilot or will you commit to ensuring that it still goes ahead?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not want to make a commitment now to any funding that could after all be prejudicial to any negotiations we are engaged in.  That is not tactically the right thing to do, Fiona, if you see what I mean.  I think we will want to continue to press for support for this vital area.  We do not have the funding.  I just want to say, your point about the shortage of prosecutions is a good one, however I think this practice has been illegal on the statute books since 1985 and we have, for the first time, last year had a prosecution in London.


It is an extremely difficult thing to be successful in and I think the Commissioner is right to draw attention to many of the pitfalls in delivering a successful prosecution, however we must have one because there are people who are simply getting away with it and as long as they get away with it and as long as there is not a successful prosecution for FGM then people will have a sense that it is not taken as seriously as it should be.  The practitioners and those who indulge in FGM will continue to think that it is somehow connived in or winked at by people in London.  That is absolutely not true.  We must stamp this out.


Fiona Twycross AM:  I think we can all agree on that, thank you.