BREAKING: Doctor cleared of carrying out female genital mutilation

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, has been found not guilty of carrying out female genital mutilation on a mother in the first British prosecution of its kind.

The 32-year-old doctor, of Rushden Gardens, Clayhall, was accused of carrying out the illegal procedure in November 2012 at Whittington Hospital in Archway.

But a jury acquitted him after less than half an hour of deliberations on Wednesday afternoon.

Defence barrister Zoe Johnson QC said Dr Dharmasena had “been hung out to dry” and forced to pay the “ultimate price” for hospital failings.

Dr Dharmasena smiled as the jury of five men and seven women delivered its verdict at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

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.”

Britain’s first prosecution for female genital mutilation was a landmark case of enormous symbolism.

But the verdict came down to a very narrow issue - exactly how far did Dharmasena sew the woman up after she gave birth.

Prosecutors had argued that, under pressure, the young doctor had sewn the woman, known as AB in court, up considerably.

They claimed he stitched her labia together, obstructing the urethra, and that this amounted to “reinfibulating”, re-doing her childhood FGM.

However, Dharmasena insisted he only carried out a single figure of eight stitch to stop the blood which she had been oozing for around 20 minutes.

And he said he left AB with more room in that part of her body.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, under which the case was brought, allows for key exemptions to prosecution.

It states no crime is committed if a registered medical practitioner performs the procedure because it is “necessary” for the patient’s physical or mental health, or for purposes connected to labour or birth.

After extensive legal argument on the meaning of the Act - never before tested in a court of law - it was agreed the case hinged on exactly how far the stitches went.

If jurors believed the prosecution that the stitches were longer and left AB far more closed, then they should convict.

But if they believed the doctor when he said he sewed one small stitch at the apex, then the judge directed the jury he must be cleared.

If they thought the stitches fell somewhere between the two accounts, they must acquit.

Jurors took less than 30 minutes to find Dr Dharmasena not guilty of FGM in what was a landmark trial.

Another man was cleared of abetting the offence.