POLICE bosses have written to schools and health organisations to spot the signs of female genital mutilation.

Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable Jason Hogg and Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld are urging bodies which work with children and young people to spot the warning signs that a girl may be at risk of or has experienced FGM.

The awareness campaign comes after NHS Digital statistics revealed this week there were 10 newly recorded cases of FGM in Oxfordshire in 2016/17.

FGM is child abuse and is a crime in the UK. Mr Stansfeld said it was ‘vital’ to raise awareness of FGM and the communities it affects.

He added: “All organisations which come into contact with children such as health and social care professionals and teachers, have a responsibility to recognise the signs of FGM to prevent young girls becoming victims.”

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other damage to the genital organs, for supposed cultural, religious or non-medical reasons.

This practice inflicts severe physical and psychological damage to the child.

While it is thought the crime predominantly takes place outside the UK, it is believed to be vastly under-reported.

The summer holidays are a particularly high risk time when girls may be taken out of the country for the procedure.

ACC Hogg said: “FGM is a grave violation of the human rights of girls and women. It is often a hidden crime and one where we need the support of the local community to help us to tackle and eradicate it.

“In the year ahead we will be seeking to raise awareness of hidden harm and the crimes that come within this area of work which includes FGM.”

Signs that a girl is at risk of FGM include a long holiday abroad or attending a special ceremony to ‘become a woman’.

Victims can receive support by calling 0800 133 7938.