POLICE Scotland has investigated 14 possible cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) involving 16 girls in the past year – but no criminality has been found.
The figures come after forces across the UK revealed dozens of suspected FGM offences had been recorded over the last three years but only a handful of arrests had been made.
The NSPCC said that the lack of convictions highlighted the “tough challenge” facing police, while one FGM survivor said the practice remained “secretive” among communities carrying it out.
Despite the lack of prosecutions, Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham insisted: “As the chief officer in Police Scotland with responsibility for public protection, my main priority in tackling female genital mutilation is in protecting children from harm.
“I recognise FGM as child abuse and, through recently enhanced relationships with charities and other public authorities, we prioritise preventing such barbaric acts.
“Whilst much good work has been done, future collective efforts must change attitudes and behaviours.”
The NSPCC described FGM as “a hidden and complex cultural form of child abuse”.
The charity said its FGM help-line had received 321 UK reports since it launched last June – 148 of which had been referred to police and children’s services.
John Cameron, NSPCC head of child protection, said: “These figures do not come as a surprise. We know that the police face a very tough challenge in gaining the appropriate evidence to prove that a child is at risk of FGM.
“The UK government has recognised the difficulties the authorities face in prosecuting the perpetrators of this crime and we hope the police’s ability to bring people to justice will be strengthened with proposed new legislation.
“We believe far more needs to be done to help victims deal with the trauma they have suffered which can have mental and physical consequences throughout their lives.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers said every allegation of FGM was “treated seriously and thoroughly investigated” and it was “heartened” that more people were confident to report suspected cases.
The UK’s first prosecution involving FGM began at the Old Bailey last week.
Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, from Whittington Hospital in London, and a second man who cannot be named, deny the charges and are due to stand trial next year.
MPs have warned that the failure to tackle the growing practice of female genital mutilation in the UK is a “national scandal” that has resulted in the preventable abuse of thousands of girls.
An estimated 65,000 girls under the age of 13 are thought to be at risk in the UK.