Police are targeting passengers at Gatwick Airport who may be coming into the country to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on Sussex woman, it has been revealed.
Deputy Chief Constable of Sussex Police Giles York, said a plan was under way to work with health authorities to find more victims of the operations – which intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
During an accountability meeting on Friday (February 21), Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne asked the chief constable what officers were doing to combat the crime.
The issue was raised after numerous letters on the subject from members of the public were sent to the office of Mrs Bourne.
She said: “It’s absolutely appalling and I want to understand what’s happening with Sussex Police on this.”
Mr York confirmed FGM was a crime and classed as assault, but one which was under-reported and hard to discover.
He said: “This crime is often discovered in the maternity ward.
“The real challenge for us is discovering the crime in the first instance and when it is, how we are able to support the person.
“We have targeted the airport and trying to target the people who are coming in to commit these crimes. There is a developing intelligence plan running through Gatwick.”
Mrs Bourne said she believed that, from April, hospitals would have an efficient way of recording FGM data.
The chief constable said the force would be working with health authorities in a bid to share the data.
In addition to ongoing operations at Gatwick, Mr York said there was a ‘robust’ neighbourhood policing plan.
Mrs Bourne asked Mr York how he knew whether the neighbourhood policing teams were picking up on information regarding FGM within their local community.
He replied: “We will only know when reports come through.
“Officers need to have the knowledge and confidence for what is quite a difficult conversation.”
Mr York added: “This is hugely under-reported across the county and we are working very closely with our partnerships.”