Reporting by Tom Tuite.
A 55-year-old man has pleaded guilty to endangering a baby’s life by carrying out a crude circumcision without anaesthetic on the 10-month old infant.
The baby needed emergency urgent medical attention and was hospitalised for two weeks.
Father-of-six, Philip Ogbewe, from Nigeria but living in Ireland 20 years and residing at Green Lanes, Drogheda, Co. Louth, used a blade on
the infant during a cultural circumcision.
The baby boy was left bleeding heavily and was rushed to the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar before he was transferred to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.
He has made a full recovery, but his mother, who had sought the circumcision, and thought Ogbewe – a former grocer and fridge technician – was a doctor, Longford Circuit Criminal Court was told yesterday.
“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.
He later remarked that the defendant had masqueraded as a doctor, “albeit a quack doctor” and he was well aware of the cultural norms in Ireland.
Ogbewe, who called himself Doctor Philip, had been known in his community for carrying out circumcisions, since he was in his mid-teens,
the court was told.
It was a tradition in his family going back a number of generations to his great grandfather. Ogbewe had continued performing them while on bail which as a consequence was revoked in November, the judge noted.
The accused had lived in Ireland long enough to know it was not allowed, Judge Johnson said. He noted from evidence that Ogbewe already had made enquiries about the legitimacy of his circumcisions here, and he had been left in no uncertain doubt.
The case arose out of cultural norms and what was acceptable, he said adding, “The old adage when in Rome, do as the Romans, has to apply.”
He described the offence at the “higher end of recklessness” and “the procedure, on a 10-month old child without anaesthetic or proper sterilisation, was obviously reckless in the extreme”. A hospital report also described it as a botched job, the court heard.
Sentencing was adjourned until Monday.
Ogbewe pleaded guilty reckless endangerment of life by performing the circumcision on the baby which led to serious haemorrhaging which created a substantial risk of death of serious harm, at the infant’s home in County Longford on December 4, 2015.
A second charge under the Section 41.b of the Medical Practitioners Act for falsely representing himself as a medical practitioner was struck out.
The investigation commenced after gardai were contacted by staff from the hospital in Mullingar who had been treating the baby for heavy bleeding to the genital area.
Garda Sergeant Paul Carney said the circumcision was carried out in a “crude manner”. He agreed with prosecuting counsel Shane Geraghty BL that he took details from the child’s mother who had sought a traditional ritual circumcision and had been given Ogbewe’s number.
She paid him €200 when he travelled to her home and performed the circumcision with a small knife. He arrived wearing a stethoscope and the mother told Garda Sergeant Carney she thought he was a doctor.
After he left, the infant began bleeding heavily and when the mother rang him said it was to be expected and to give him Calpol or Neurofen.
Garda Sergeant Carney interviewed him and he claimed the woman had pressured him into performing the circumcision.
When his car searched, gardai found his canvas bag contained a surgical blade, a razor blade, thread, cotton wool, Vaseline, and a disinfectant liquid.
A hospital report stated the skin had appeared to have been removed form the baby’s penile shaft, the court heard.
A victim impact statement was furnished to the court in which the mother was described as traumatised. The child’s parents could not attend the hearing because they were cocooning, the court heard.
Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, defending, said his client had regarded himself as an expert, conscientious and qualified, but he was now remorseful.
His legal team obtained an expert medical report and emphatically explained to him that he must not perform circumcisions again which he has now accepted.
His client was loved by his family and he had brought a letter of apology to court, counsel said. He was also willing to pay restitution.
He also had health problems and has spent 10-months in custody, Mr O Lideadha said in pleas for leniency.
He had four prior convictions but they related to traffic offences which the judge said were not relevant to the case. However, he also said that Ogbewe had continued to ply his trade while on bail which was an aggravating factor.