A British Sri Lankan doctor who was charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on a Somali woman was today cleared of all charges.
Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, a junior gynaecologist at the Whittington Hospital in London, was the first person to be charged for FGM under Britain’s Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 after prosecutors alleged he carried out the procedure on the woman shortly after she gave birth in November 2012.
Today a jury at Southwark Crown Court in South London took just half an hour to clear Dr Dharmasena, 32, of the offense.
His trial heard that the woman had already undergone FGM when she was a young girl in her home country and that the stitches that had held that original incision had ruptured during labour.
Dr Dharmasena told the court that he then sutured her with a single stitch.
Hasan Mohamed, who had acted as the young woman’s translator during her stay at the hospital, was also cleared of aiding in FGM.
In a statement 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.”
Dr Dharmasena’s lawyer, Zoe Johnson QC, said her client had been “hung out to dry” and forced to pay the “ultimate price” for the hospital’s own failures.
Ms Johnson said that the woman – known in court as ‘AB’ – should have been placed in a special measures section of the hospital because she had undergone FGM as a child.
Dr Dharmasena said he was “horrified” to learn just when she went into labour that she had previously been the victim of the “barbaric” practice and only carried out a single stitch because she began bleeding soon after her baby was born.
He maintained his belief that the stitch had been in her medical interest.
Dr Dharmasena had never treated a woman with FGM before or received any training in how to handle the situation.
The young doctor – who was suspended by the General Medical Council and forced to take up work at a medical research lab after being charged – had been made a “scapegoat” by the Whittington Hospital for its failings, Ms Johnson said.
“There was a complete failure to pick up AB as someone who had suffered FGM. That failure by the midwife and hospital is at the root cause of all that has followed subsequently”, she added.
Dr Dharmasena could have faced up to 14 years in prison had he been convicted.
Also known as female circumcision, FGM involves the removal or injuring of part of a woman’s genitals for non-medical reasons.
It is a dangerous and often fatal procedure.