A teacher's duty to report cases of Female Genital Mutilation
The Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force on 1 October 2015, introducing a duty on all professionals, including teachers, to notify police if they discover that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been carried out on a girl under 18 years old.
FGM is the partial or full removal of external female genitalia in a non-medical context. It is illegal to carry out FGM on girls in the UK under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 and illegal to carry out on UK citizens overseas under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. There is a higher risk of FGM being carried out on girls from Africa as it is a tradition in some cultures, and in particular girls between the ages of 5 and 8.
The Serious Crime Act seeks to discover more cases of FGM given the low level of prosecutions under the Acts. The duty to report arises when a teacher is informed by a girl that FGM has been carried out on her or where the teacher observes physical signs on the girl indicating FGM has occurred. The teacher must also have no reason to believe that it was as a result of a surgical operation. Of course there is no duty to examine girls for teachers, therefore in this context reporting will mainly arise from disclosures by the girl to the teacher, however FGM is described.
Guidance from the government indicates that a report should be made by the close of the next working day if possible by calling 101, the single non-emergency number. The Data Protection Act 1998 does not prevent a report to the police being made for these purposes.
Teachers will no doubt be aware that the topic will need to be approached with sensitivity and caution if any disclosures or signs are displayed indicating FGM has been carried out. The aim of this new duty is to discover more cases of FGM and increase the number of prosecutions for those carrying out the crime.