WEST Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner is to start a campaign to raise awareness of female genital mutilation.

Mark Burns-Williamson is also to meet Bradford campaigner Yemi Fagborun to discuss how victims can be helped.

Senior Bradford councillor Ralph Berry is lending his weight to the campaign, which is gathering pace following new figures which reveal that people are not being charged with the offence of FGM.

Police forces across the country have recorded dozens of suspected FGM offences over the last three years, but only a handful of arrests have been made.

In West Yorkshire, there has been only one FGM-related crime recorded from 2011 to June of this year. The force said it was unable to disclose whether anyone had been arrested or charged.

FGM is a common practice in many African countries, but is becoming an issue in the UK due to migration. It was made illegal in 1985 but there has never been a prosecution in this country.

Nigerian-born victim Mrs Fagborun, the boss of the Peacemaker International charity in West Bowling, said FGM was not being taken seriously.

She said: "One of the challenges is the lack of interest being shown. We want to make sure that people in authority are actually doing something about this."

She said weak evidence was to blame for the lack of prosecutions.

A national conference on the issue is to be held next year in Bradford. Mrs Fagborun also has a meeting next month with Mr Burns-Williamson.

"We want to encourage people to talk about it," she said. "There are many victims who are not coming forward. It is very important that they speak about it."

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “Female Genital Mutilation is a serious form of abuse.

“I intend to launch an awareness campaign and hold a conference early next year that will bring together key partners from across West Yorkshire. Next month I will be speaking at an event on the subject, with the aim of focusing our attention on what is an issue of national concern.

“Female genital mutilation often has links with honour based violence and is an offence which is largely under reported.

“Victims need to be confident that they will be dealt with appropriately throughout the criminal justice system and that perpetrators will be brought to justice. I will be working closely with the Police, Adult and Child Safeguarding boards and other key partners to achieve this."

Cllr Berry, the Executive Member for Children and Young People's Services, said there needed to be a national policy of personal help and social education in schools to ensure every child was given the appropriate awareness.

He said: "This is not an easy subject to talk about, but we have a duty to do what we can to safeguard these children.

"It is an horrific and barbaric practice that damages young women for their entire lives. It has no cultural, religious, or other justification. We have to talk about it and not let sensitivity get in the way of safeguarding children."

Cllr Berry said people needed to be referred to the Safeguarding Board website for information.

He added: "Yemi Fagborun has shown the way by talking about this from an incredibly personal perspective, and I can only pay tribute to what she is doing."