Female genital mutilation trial: 'This is not a dysfunctional family'

Defence counsel has told the trial of a couple accused of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughter that this is not a dysfunctional family and there is no evidence of abuse.

Female genital mutilation trial: 'This is not a dysfunctional family'

Defence counsel has told the trial of a couple accused of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughter that this is not a dysfunctional family and there is no evidence of abuse.

The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of carrying out an act of FGM on a then one-year-old girl at an address in Dublin on September 16, 2016.

The 37-year-old man and 27-year-old woman also pleaded not guilty to one count of child cruelty on the same day.

In his closing speech to the jury on the seventh day of the trial, Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, said there were two contrary versions of how the child sustained her injury.

Mr Costelloe said the explanation of the parents was that the child was moving swiftly backwards, fell on a toy and injured herself. He said the jury had heard the evidence of a doctor that it was not possible the injury was sustained by falling on the toy.

He asked the jury to consider if children do fall backwards, do they land on their buttocks or do they fall in such a way that only part of the clitoris is excised and there is no other bruising or lesions.

Mr Costelloe said the labia majora which closes over where the clitoris should be was unaffected. He asked if it was reasonably possible that only and precisely the glans and body of the clitoris were removed by falling on the toy.

He told the jury if they decide this explanation is not reasonably possible then by definition the accused are lying about what they say happened to their daughter.

Mr Costelloe said that the State cannot say that her parents did the act of FGM. He said the State absolutely says they permitted the FGM to be done.

He said the State says that the accused are secondary participants and they aided, abetted or procured the act. He said that the evidence is that they never left their daughter, so if an act of FGM was done they were present for it and they failed to intervene and stop it.

Mr Costelloe said that the only medical evidence in the case is that the glans and the body of the clitoris were excised. He concluded by saying that the accused are lying, that an act of FGM was done and that they permitted it.

In his closing speech to the jury, Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending the accused man, said that both accused had not just denied they permitted any act of mutilation, they had also expressed their views on it that it was something they know about and would not countenance doing.

Mr Fitzgerald said it was beyond doubt that the accused were in all respects loving, caring and fond parents. He told the jury they have to decide whether the doctors' evidence satisfied them that these loving parents would do this to their daughter or allow it to happen to her.

He said that there was no doubt that on the evidence, this was not a dysfunctional family and there was no evidence of abuse.

Mr Fitzgerald told the jury that even if they were satisfied that the accused's explanation was a lie, it would be wrong to automatically assume they were guilty. He said people can lie in all kinds of circumstances.

He suggested to the jury it might be worth carrying out the exercise of imagining that if the accused were not themselves but simply any other married couple and then ask themselves on the evidence would they be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr Fitzgerald told the jury it might help them focus in on the fact that they had to take the evidence as it had been given and exclude all irrelevant matters, which would include whether people speak English or swear their oaths on the Koran.

'That is a riddle'

In his closing speech to the jury, Patrick Gageby SC, defending the accused woman, said his client has no previous convictions and has never come to the adverse attention of gardaí. He said that is something that frequently cannot be said about one's clients.

Mr Gageby said that barring this accusation the child was a well cared for, well groomed and well nourished child. He said his client did not see the child fall on the toy so therefore the toy so far as she is concerned was fundamentally hearsay.

He said a matter not mentioned by prosecution was that if an act of FGM was done, it required the child to be restrained or sedated. He said there was no evidence to support that the child had been restrained or sedated.

Mr Gageby said his client said in interview that she would never do this to her daughter because something like this had happened to her.

He said it would be an insult to suggest to the jury that his client and her husband would be treated differently if they were John and Mary Murphy whose family had been living here for 300 years. He said the concept one might attribute a motive to her based on her origin would be reprehensible.

Mr Gageby said that the prosecution could not say his client did the offence, so they said it was done by someone else, but they could not say who they were or even if there was such a person. He said that was not a case, “that is a riddle”.

The trial continues tomorrow before Judge Elma Sheahan and a jury.

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