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13 September 2017, 06:45
Police are "absolutely determined" to obtain a successful prosecution for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) despite no-one being convicted of the crime since it was outlawed more than 30 years ago, a senior officer has said.
Inspector Allen Davis, from Scotland Yard's sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said it was "really important" to show that the practice, which was made illegal in 1985, is not tolerated.
Eurostar terminals in London and Kent were targeted on Tuesday as part of a police operation to protect children from practices including FGM, forced marriage, breast ironing and child abuse linked to beliefs.
Speaking at St Pancras, Mr Davis said there were a "number of reasons" no one had yet been convicted for FGM, including difficulties in getting people to report and testify against family members.
But he said: "We are absolutely determined to obtain a successful prosecution - it is really important because of the message that it sends out that this will not be tolerated and it is illegal."
He added: "FGM - and all the harmful practices - we know to be hugely under reported. They are complex issues and the data doesn't represent the scale of the problem.
"It's our role to increase awareness and encourage people to come forward and share information that gives people the confidence to report their concern."
In 2015, the only trial held in Britain for FGM ended in the the acquittal of the two men in less than 15 minutes.
Passengers arriving in London on trains from Brussels and Paris were met by officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and UK Border Force as part of Operation Limelight.
Individuals who may have travelled from "countries of prevalence" linked to the "harmful practices" were spoken to and also provided with educational material.
Mr Davis said: "Prosecution is important but it is also about preventing it happening, working in partnership and protecting the vulnerable."
The operation has previously run at UK airports, but Tuesday marks the first time it has been implemented at a rail terminal.
It comes at the end of what charities have dubbed the "cutting season" - when girls are taken abroad during the summer holidays to undergo the FGM procedure.
Leyla Hussein, a survivor and activist who observed the police operation, said: "This is about prevention and giving out information but also if a child protection issue comes up, then we take that very seriously."
The 36-year-old, who works as a psychotherapist, said prosecutions for FGM would help communities "take it seriously".
She said the lack of convictions was "absolutely frustrating" for police, but added: "There's another side to this, because for me, a conviction also means we failed a child.
"When you undergo FGM there is no way back from it. So wouldn't it be great if we intervened before any of this happened and educated parents."