When detective chief inspector Leanne Pook began investigating allegations that a father in Bristol had allowed his six-year-old daughter to undergo female genital mutilation, she hoped the case – the second to reach court – could go on to make legal history. It has been more than three decades since FGM was made illegal in the UK, but there is yet to be a successful prosecution. The first case, in 2015, resulted in an NHS doctor being acquitted in less than 30 minutes.
In the runup to the trial DCI Pook, the FGM police lead for Avon and Somerset, said she felt a huge sense of responsibility to prove the police were taking the hidden crime seriously. Yet, far from becoming a landmark victory, the Bristol case collapsed last month after a judge at Bristol Crown Court ordered the jury to return a verdict of not guilty and described aspects of the case as “deeply troubling”.