As schools break up for summer, Beds police act quickly to use new law blocking girls being taken out of the country for potential genital mutilation

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Police in Bedfordshire have secured the first-ever protection order under a brand-new law designed to protect vulnerable women and girls from the threat of female genital mutilation.

The new legislation which makes FGM protection orders possible only came into effect on Friday, allowing the authorities to seize the passports of people who they suspect are planning to take girls abroad for mutilation. Breaching the order is a criminal offence.

Det Chief Insp Nick Bellingham from the Bedfordshire force public protection unit said: “This legislation is a really positive step forward in the fight against this horrific crime, and we’re pleased to have been able to enforce it by issuing a protection order.

“We will continue to use this legislation where needed to prevent young girls who we believe may be at risk from being taken out of the country.

“This is child abuse, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that children are kept safe and that those responsible are caught.”

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The order was made at a court in Bedfordshire, and prevents the travel of two young girls who police believe may have been at risk of being taken to Africa and mutilated.

FGM is a procedure that sees the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

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It is estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of FGM each year, yet very few cases are reported.

Signs that FGM may have taken place on a child include a lengthy absence from school, health problems including bladder and menstrual issues, complaints about pain between their legs, and behavioural changes.

A child may also talk about being taken away for a special ceremony, or say that something has happened to them which they are not allowed to talk about.

Mr Bellingham added: “A change in law isn’t in itself enough to end this barbaric practice. I’d urge anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of FGM to contact police immediately.”

For further help and information about FGM, contact the police on 101 or a dedicated FGM helpline operated by the NSPCC child protection charity on 0800 028 3550.

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