A jury has found a married couple guilty of the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughter.
The couple 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. They are both originally from an African nation but cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.
On the eighth day of the trial, the jury returned unanimous verdicts of guilty on all counts after almost three hours of deliberations.
Judge Elma Sheahan thanked the jury for their care and attention in a difficult case. A bail hearing followed the jury verdict and is still in progress.
Following the convictions, Detective Inspector Danny Kelly told the court that he objected to bail for both accused based on the seriousness of the charge and the potential of a flight risk. He said that there is a deportation order in place for the man which is under appeal and the woman is an Irish citizen.
The court heard that the couple's three children, including the victim in this case, are currently under the care of the woman's sister.
Det. Insp. Kelly said that in the event the accused were remanded in custody the children would remain in their aunt's custody if Tusla was satisfied with the arrangement.
Judge Sheahan remanded both accused in custody and adjourned the matter for sentencing on December 20, next.
During the trial, the accused man said that on the morning of September 16, 2016, the family woke up at around 11am. He said that he noticed that his daughter had a “dirty nappy” and asked his wife to clean her.
He said his daughter came back from the bathroom no longer wearing a nappy and he showed her a ball with lights on it. He said his daughter ran backwards and he turned around.
The accused man said he heard his daughter crying and he picked her up to try to calm her. He said his wife came out of the bathroom and said she saw something between her daughter's legs which he realised was blood.
Dr Sri Paran, the consultant surgeon who operated on the child, said that she was bleeding from just above where he would expect the clitoris to be and he observed that the clitoral head was absent.
Dr Paran said that the bleeding was “not planning on stopping any time soon”. He said that had the bleeding not been stopped, by the following morning the child would have had difficulty breathing and would have gone into shock after around 20 hours.
Dr Deborah Hodes told the trial she helped to establish a clinic specialising in identifying and treating those suspected to have undergone FGM and to the best of her knowledge this is the only such clinic in the UK and Ireland. She said she has probably seen around 80 cases of FGM.
Dr Hodes said that her observations of the child's injury were consistent with FGM. She said that what she saw was consistent with the cutting and removal of tissue.
She said that the explanation that the child sustained the injury by falling on a toy does not fit with the clinical findings and it is not possible that falling backwards onto the toy would cause the level of damage.
Dr John Hoade, who works in the DNA section of Forensic Science Ireland as a scientist, said that he examined the child's toy found at the address.
“I found no blood on the toy,” Dr Hoade said.
In his closing speech to the jury, Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, 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 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.
He 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.
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 knew 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 had 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.
In his closing speech to the jury, Patrick Gageby SC, defending the accused woman, 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 with gardaí that she would never do this to her daughter because something like this had happened to her.