Whittington doctor cleared in first female genital mutilation case: ‘Hospital hung him out to dry’
An NHS doctor has been cleared of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) in the first British case of its kind - amid claims that he was used as a “scapegoat”.
Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, of Rushden Gardens, Clayhall, was accused of illegally stitching up a young mother after she gave birth at the Whittington Hospital in Archway in November 2012 - re-doing the FGM that had been carried out when the woman was a six-year-old in Somalia.
But a jury acquitted him after less than half an hour of deliberations.
Defence barrister Zoe Johnson QC said Dharmasena had “been hung out to dry” and forced to pay the “ultimate price” for hospital failings.
His acquittal will prompt questions about why the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) chose such a marginal case for the UK’s first prosecution.
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Dr Dharmasena smiled as the jury of five men and seven women delivered its verdict at Southwark Crown Court today. His friends sat at the back of court and cheered as the verdict was read out.
In a statement released after the verdict, 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.
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“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.”
Hasan Mohamed, 41, was cleared of abetting the offence.
Following the verdict Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, defended the decision to prosecute.
She said: “It was right that we put this case before the court and on three separate occasions, once before trial and twice during the trial, the judge dismissed applications by the defence to stop the case, thereby agreeing that the evidence should be considered by a jury.
“The CPS does not choose which cases it is asked to consider for prosecution and we must apply the same test to every case.
“We do not shy away from difficult cases, and where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest we will prosecute. The evidence in this case meant a prosecution should be brought so that a jury could be allowed to consider the facts. We respect the decision of the jury.
“This will, of course, not affect our resolve to bring those who do commit FGM to justice where we have the evidence to do so.
“Female Genital Mutilation is an invidious crime, and one which we remain determined to prosecute.
“Today’s verdict will not stop the important work that we and the police are doing in encouraging victims to come forward and looking at new ways to help bring cases to court.”
In a statement, the Whittington Hospital welcomed the verdict.
Whittington Health medical director, Richard Jennings, said: “This was a unique, sensitive and complex case and, as was made clear in the trial, Dr Dharmasena is a well respected doctor and never had any intention of doing harm.
“We endeavour to support our clinical staff who often face difficult, challenging and emergency situations and strive to do their very best for patients.
“We are committed to providing the very best care and support for girls and women living with the consequences of FGM.”
The hospital has set up a dedicated, confidential helpline for people affected by, or who require support around, FGM. Call 020 7288 5150.