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03 Jul 2022

Botched circumcision caused 'untold pain and trauma' for Longford baby

Prison: Man jailed for three years for illegal, botched circumcision on Longford baby

Botched circumcision caused 'untold pain and trauma' for Longford baby

Judge Keenan Johnson has labelled the crude circumcision of a ten-month-old baby a “barbaric act of cruelty” after hearing evidence against the man who had carried out the procedure.

Philip Ogbewe, Green Lanes, Drogheda, Co Louth, appeared at Longford Circuit Court last week charged with “intentionally and recklessly” engaging in misconduct, namely the circumcision of a young Longford boy, and falsely representing to be a medical practitioner.

The court heard that, on December 4, 2015, Mr Ogbewe, who is originally from Nigeria, but has been living in Ireland for 20 years, performed the cultural circumcision on a ten-month-old baby, without anaesthetic, while the child was being held down.

Later, the mother noticed a lot of blood in the baby's nappy and he was rushed to hospital, where he was cared for. He made a full recovery but his parents, who thought Mr Ogbewe was a doctor, described the incident as a terrible episode in their lives.

A victim impact statement furnished to the court by the child’s father and read out by Sgt Paul Carney of Granard Garda Station, revealed that the incident caused “untold pain and trauma” for the 10-month-old baby.

“He endangered my child and the public need to be protected from him,” the statement read.

“African people living in this country need to be educated in the dangers of being approached by a man like this.”

Mr Ogbewe, who called himself Dr Philip, and has been performing circumcisions since he was a teenager, pleaded guilty to the count of endangerment, but it was the case of the defence that he never told the mother of the child that he was a registered doctor.

“There’s no doubt whatsoever that he was called - and called himself - Dr Philip for many years, providing a service of carrying out circumcisions,” said defending solicitor, Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha.

“But he regarded it an informal qualification. He represented himself as somebody who was experienced and trained at carrying out circumcisions.

“At no point did he say he was a registered medical practitioner. He’s not a registered practitioner.

“The mother does not say my client said he was a registered practitioner. She makes reference to the fact she did this for religious and medical reasons when she was informed that nurses and GPs were not providing this.”

Mr O Lideadha added that the defence was intending to ask the court to sentence Mr Ogbewe because “he now accepts that it is not for him to decide whether or not he was properly qualified”.

“He committed to desisting from this behaviour in the future. He deserves to be punished, but not for something he didn’t do.”
In response, Mr Shane Geraghty BL, for the prosecution, took the “if it walks like a duck” approach, and said that Mr Ogbewe represented himself as a registered medical practitioner, even if he didn’t explicitly say it.

“As a matter of law, a person who is not registered should not practice medicine but this man practiced medicine,” Mr Geraghty said.

“He went to the property and he carried out the circumcision procedure. He may not have expressly and orally told the mother he was registered but that’s what he masqueraded as.

“Unfortunately, back then, he just didn’t seem to get it. He had contacted the HSE and been told what he had to do to practice this procedure and he didn’t do it. He flagrantly disregarded the relevant requirements that he was acutely informed of.

“Twelve years prior to this, he was advised how he could be trained to do this.”

Referring to Mr Ogbewe’s own statements in interviews following his arrest, Mr Geraghty read out a number of phrases used by the accused including, “I call myself a circumcisionist”, “some people call me doctor Philip” and “most people recognise me as a doctor”.

“The mother understood he was a doctor,” Mr Geraghty explained to the court.

He added that the child’s mother had been visiting a park in Dublin and changing her child’s diaper when a woman with whom she had been in conversation commented on the fact that her child was not circumcised.

When the child’s mother explained that she could not get the baby circumcised because the procedure is not provided in Ireland, the woman explained that she knew a doctor who would come and do it for her.

In her own statement, Mr Geraghty explained, the child’s mother said that Mr Ogbewe came to her door with a stethoscope and other medical instruments to carry out the circumcision and that she had assumed he was a doctor.

“If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...” said Mr Geraghty.

“He showed up with medical instruments. He knocked on the door and said ‘I am the doctor from (the woman in the park) and I do circumcisions’.”

Judge Keenan Johnson noted Mr O’Lideadha’s application to have the charge struck out on the basis that the prosecution’s evidence doesn’t support it accurately.

“It’s common case the accused is not registered,” said Judge Johnson.

“I have to look at this case as a whole. He has pleaded guilty with the endangerment charge. He did masquerade as a doctor, albeit a quack doctor, and that is an aggravating factor, but it can be dealt with during sentencing.”

With that, the prosecution called Sgt Paul Carney to give evidence.

Sgt Carney explained that an investigation was launched following a call from staff at Mullingar Hospital who were treating a baby for heavy bleeding to the genital area.

He explained that he took details from the child’s mother, who had sought the procedure for cultural and religious reasons.

She had paid Mr Ogbewe €200 to provide the service.

“Following the interview, we obtained a search warrant and conducted a search in his house in Drogheda,” said Sgt Carney, adding that a number of items were found in the accused’s car, including a bag with rubber gloves, disinfectant, scissors, razor blades, surgical blades, cotton wool, a torch and thread, among other items.

“He initially denied damaging children but, by the end of the interview, he accepted he’d been reckless,” said Sgt Carney.

The court heard that, while Mr Ogbewe had no previous, relevant convictions, he did continue to carry out circumcisions while on bail for this offence, which the judge said was an aggravating factor.

“It is a barbaric act of cruelty, there is no question about it, on a 10-month old, even allowing for cultural norms,” said Judge Keenan Johnson.

Mr Ogbewe’s case was adjourned to Monday, May 26, when he returned to court to hear Judge Johnson’s judgement.

“This is a serious case with the accused claiming to have the expertise to perform circumcisions when clearly he did not and was not, as required by law, a registered medical practitioner,” said Judge Johnson.

“The barbarity and cruelty involved in the performance of circumcision on a 10-month-old child without anesthesia is both shocking and unacceptable.

“While it is accepted that the accused did not intentionally cause harm or endanger the infant child, nevertheless the manner in which the procedure was performed, in the court’s view, puts the recklessness involved at the upper end for sentencing purposes.

“The court, in imposing sentence in a case such as this, is obligated to impose a significant sanction, not only to punish the accused, but also to deter others who might be engaged in such illicit practices.”

The maximum sentence for endangerment is seven years, Judge Johnson revealed; “In my view, the Oireachtas should consider revisiting the sanction as it would seem, given the broad spectrum of offences that can be covered by the section to be too restrictive and should have a higher maximum sentence,” he said.

“In any event, the court is constrained by the current legislation.”

Taking into account aggravating and mitigating factors, Judge Johnson sentenced Mr Ogbewe to four years in prison, suspending the final year for ten years.

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