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West Midlands Police under fire over FGM tweets

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West Midlands Police has been criticised for suggesting parents involved in committing female genital mutilation (FGM) on their children should not always be prosecuted.

The force said in a tweet that education and safeguarding vulnerable girls was its priority in FGM cases, adding that prosecuting or jailing parents was unlikely to benefit youngsters.

The comments have sparked a furious response from UKIP, with Suzanne Evans criticising the force and Bill Etheridge calling for an overhaul of WMP's policy on the issue.

The tweet that sparked the row

The tweet originally appeared on WMP's official Twitter account in response to a comment about BBC1 drama Call The Midwife, which featured a portrayal of a victim of FGM.

The tweet was was later deleted, but this afternoon the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he would be raising the matter with the chief constable.

The chief constable spoke out on the matter today to clarify the force's position on the crime.

West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson's reaction to the controversial tweet

Bill Etheridge, a West Midlands MEP and Dudley councillor, said: "Effectively this is one of the worst crimes in our society and one of the least detected.

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"It is the duty of the police to take action. If they don't, they are guilty of neglecting vulnerable people who they have a duty to protect. Victims are already scared to come forward. They are even less likely to do so if they think the police won't send the perpetrators to prison.

"The police need to look at how they deal with female genital mutilation to make sure that those who commit this cruel and brutal crime are properly dealt with, regardless of their belief systems. That means jail, not education."

Detective Constable Gill Squires, FGM expert at the WMP's vulnerable crime unit Sentinal, later tweeted that the force will prosecute parents or cutters if it is in the child's best interests.

The West Midlands has one of the highest rates of FGM in the country.

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Last year the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said it was a 'national scandal' that the UK had not seen a single FGM case prosecuted.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: "FGM is child abuse and both myself and the public rightly expect West Midlands Police to arrest and prosecute those committing this most serious of crimes.

"Abuse will not be tolerated and it is absolutely right that the public has an increased expectation in the police to tackle complicated hidden crimes.

"I have made a huge investment in West Midlands Police's Public Protection Unit with a focus on intervention, prevention and protection. Major strides have been taken to ensure identifying and responding to hidden crimes is a policing staple, with safeguarding part of everyone's day-to-day business.

"I understand people's concerns following a number of tweets from West Midlands Police's Twitter accounts this weekend - and the general frustration at the lack of prosecutions nationwide. The tweets in question did not convey just how dedicated West Midlands Police is to tackling FGM nor official policy and I will be raising the matter with the Chief Constable."

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