UK
05/02/2015 09:11 GMT | Updated 05/02/2015 09:59 GMT

UK Doctor Cleared Of FGM Was 'Hung Out To Dry' In A Show Trial Over Incorrect Stiching

Story contains graphic surgical descriptions

An NHS doctor cleared of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) was "hung out to dry" in a trial that never should have been held, his barrister has claimed.

Questions have emerged about the validity of the prosecution, after a jury took less than 30 minutes to decide Dhanuson Dharmasena was not guilty of "re-doing" the brutal procedure at Whittington Hospital in 2012 on a woman who had just given birth.

Supporters said the young doctor was blamed for hospital failings when he was trying to help a bleeding women with no training of how to treat women who had suffered FGM.

Dr Dharmasena smiled and his family sobbed and hugged each other, as he was cleared by a jury in the landmark case which was the first prosecution for FGM in the UK.

dhanuson dharmasena

Dharmasena said he was "relieved" after the verdict

It had been claimed the 32-year-old illegally stitched a young mother back up after she gave birth, effectively "re-doing" the FGM she had as a six-year-old in Somalia.

But his defence barrister Zoe Johnson QC said Dharmasena had been "hung out to dry and made a scapegoat" for hospital failings.

The woman was rushed to the Whittington Hospital in north London in November 2012, but hospital trust failings meant she had not been placed on the FGM pathway (a process in which FGM victims are referred to specially trained health workers) as she should have been.

Instead Dr Dharmasena, then a junior registrar, faced the "nightmarish scenario" of discovering she was circumcised as she went into emergency labour.

The doctor from Ilford, Essex, cut the woman open to deliver the baby, and then partially re-stitched her afterwards because she was "oozing" blood.

He insisted he only carried out a single figure of eight stitch, which he thought was in her medical interests. He was later told by superiors he should have stitched on either side of the wound.

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Dr Dharmasena had never treated a woman with FGM before or received any training in it.

Ms Johnson, his barrister, said the blame for serious hospital failings were pinned on the doctor.

Dharmasena's speedy acquittal at London's Southwark Crown Court have prompted questions about why the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) chose such a marginal case for the UK's first prosecution.

whittington hospital

The offence was alleged to have happened at Whittington Hospital

As the prosecutor Kate Bex made clear in her opening speech, the landmark case was very different from the stereotype of the "back street clinic" FGM cutter.

The doctor's barrister Ms Johnson said: "You may think this case an unusual case for the prosecution to bring as their very first example.

"Everyone accepts, not least Dr Dharmasena, that female genital mutilation is an abhorrent practice.

"But female genital mutilation is not going to be stopped in this country by labelling Dr Dharmasena a criminal and a mutilator of women."

Another man, Hasan Mohamed, 41, was cleared of abetting the offence.

In a statement after the verdicts, Dr Dharmasena said: "I am extremely relieved with the court's verdict and I am grateful to the jury for their careful consideration of the facts.

"I have always maintained that FGM is an abhorrent practice that has no medical justification; however I cannot comment further on the details of this case due to patient confidentiality.

"I would like to thank my family, friends, legal team and all those who supported me through this difficult time and I look forward to putting this matter behind me."

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Mr Mohamed's lawyer, Ali Hussain, branded the case a "show trial". He said: "Following today's verdict, I am delighted that my client has been acquitted.

"He should not have been prosecuted and the jury's verdict confirms what he has always said - that he did nothing wrong.

"My client has suffered months of stress and the humiliation and lost precious time with his two young children.

"My client strongly believes this case was nothing more than a show trial - an effort by the CPS to regain some confidence after failing to bring a prosecution despite FGM laws being in place since 1985.

"My client hopes the CPS will properly review cases in future so that innocent people do not suffer as he and his family have suffered."

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The "barbaric" practice of FGM has come under the spotlight in recent years, with Hollywood star and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie joining the international fight against it.

Also known as female circumcision, it involves the removal or injuring of part of a woman's genitals for non-medical reasons. It is highly dangerous and can be fatal.

The CPS announced it was launching Britain's first prosecution last March, attracting a flurry of media reporting.

Jurors heard Dr Dharmasena and his wife, also a doctor, had to put their "lives on hold" and deferred having a baby and moving home because of the trial.

And some questioned why the woman, known only as AB, was thrust into the media spotlight the case brought with it when she did not want it.

Dr Dharmasena's barrister said he was: "the one paying the ultimate price for the hospital's ineptitude."