Change to FGM law will see stiffer penalties for abusers who blame partners

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales, a parliamentary advisory body that seeks to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, has put forward proposals for tougher sentences for parents who blame a partner for their own child cruelty. The proposals, which are supported by the Ministry of Justice, could mean that blaming others is considered an aggravating factor when a sentence is decided.

The proposals, if agreed, will help courts quantify the level of culpability and the severity of the offence in three broad categories. Further, they will bring into play a series of ‘aggravating factors’ including blaming others (often a partner) to avoid blame. The misdirection of blame to a partner in an attempt to avoid prosecution is a complex issue when deciding a case, and the new guidelines seek to more clearly define how it should be regarded in relation to the severity of sentencing. If the new guidelines pass into common use, attempting to divert blame would potentially result in a much more severe response at judgement.

The proposals also seek to more specifically address the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) by making it an offence to not protect a girl from the procedure. Despite estimates that over 130,000 women and girls in the UK are affected by FGM, over 1,500 contacts have been made since 2013 and many FGM protection orders have been issued, there has not been a single successful prosecution.

The new guidelines are in consultation at the moment, and when completed in September 2017 will pass into general use shortly after, subject to the result of the process.

If you would like to comment or review the suggested changes, they can be found here.