A child, ‘X’, who was deemed to be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and had a full travel ban ordered by the High Court preventing her from leaving the UK until she is 16, has been permitted to travel to Egypt for one week to facilitate contact with her father. This comes after the original Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order (FGMPO) which prohibited X’s parents from "removing, seeking to remove, or instructing or encouraging any other person to remove (X) from the jurisdiction of England and Wales" was successfully appealed to allow the child to maintain and develop her relationship with her father.
We were instructed to represent a mother in an application for a FGMPO issued by Hertfordshire County Court in November 2016. X was born in 2016 to an English mother and an Egyptian father. The father resides in Egypt and has been unable to join X and her mother in the UK due to issues acquiring a visa.
Proceedings began shortly after X’s birth after her mother expressed concern that her daughter may be at risk of FGM to a health visitor who made a referral to the Local Authority (LA).
The LA initiated various assessments to collate information as to the risk of FGM in Egypt and what protective orders could be put in place to allow X to travel. The LA made enquiries to UNICEF and Children and Families Across Borders as well as Inter-Country Social Services.
Instructing solicitor, Ravi Kaur Mahey, identified a number of experts who could report in FGM matters and sought to instruct an expert in Egyptian Law who was also a consultant on human rights, civil, and criminal law.
The matter was heard before Ms Justice Russell in the High Court who ultimately made an FGMPO on 15th November 2017, preventing X from leaving the UK until she turns 16 by prohibiting her parents from ‘removing, seeking to remove, or instructing or encouraging any other person to remove the child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales’ until 22 August 2032.
Neither parent sought to contest the making of an FGMPO, however the blanket travel ban that was imposed denied X and her parents the chance of having any family life together as a unit, and the decision was appealed.
Despite difficulties in securing grounds of appeal, an appeal was successfully launched. As a result of negative advice on the prospects of success from leading and junior counsel, the mother’s public funding certificate was embargoed. We continued, however, to act pro bono for the mother and pursued the appeal with the father taking the place of the appellant with the mother supporting his position.
The appeal was allowed and returned to the President of the Family Division in September for re-timetabling and a full re-trial.
Ravi took a leading role in identifying and instructing a number of experts in the UK and in Egypt, instructing them and facilitating professional meetings in preparation for the rehearing at the High Court.
A lengthy ten day final hearing, in which the risks of X being allowed to travel to Egypt to visit her father were examined and investigated, the judge ordered that X and her mother be permitted to travel to Egypt for one week to facilitate contact with the father, noting;
“This case has inevitably focused on risk, and the safety of X. But risk is not the only consideration and has to be weighed with other significant factors including the pressing importance of affording X the chance to meet with her father… it is detrimental to X's best interests to be denied the chance to form a meaningful attachment with her father.”
The order is subject to a variety of safeguarding directions which are to be complied with to enable travel. The successful outcome has now set leading case law for the considerations court must give when determining factors for travel in FGM cases and the consideration of risk.
The mother was represented by child care director Ravi Kaur Mahey and solicitor Stavri Petrou both of the Duncan Lewis Harrow office. Counsel was Nkumbe Ekaney QC.