Fourteen cases where girls have been suspected of being at risk of female ­genital mutilation (FGM) have been referred to Police Scotland since the force was set up last April.

Those cases involved 16 girls who were thought to be at risk, but Detective Superintendent William Guild told MSPs that no incidents of FGM being performed were identified.

He revealed the figures as MSPs on Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee considered the problem, with a submission from Police Scotland stating that the "prevalence of FGM in Scotland is unknown".

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It added: "A national FGM register has been established, indicating that since the 1 April 2013 there have been 14 referrals submitted to Police Scotland relating to 16 children at risk of FGM. These referrals have been investigated and whilst no criminality was identified, interventions have been made on a multi-agency basis to reduce the risk to the children concerned."

When asked by committee convener Margaret McCulloch if any child had been "actually harmed", Mr Guild said: "No. There were no cases identified."

There have been no ­prosecutions for FGM in Scotland since legislation to deal with the problem was introduced in 1985.

Mr Guild told the ­committee: "Our sense is there is a lack of referrals coming in about FGM."

He said the practice could be "entrenched in affected communities", adding: "It happens behind closed doors, it's a form of familial abuse often without independent witnesses."