Man jailed for carrying out circumcisions on seven young boys in their homes



A man who called himself a doctor and circumcised seven little boys in their homes has been jailed for six and a half years for endangerment.

Philip Ogbewe referred to himself as ‘Dr Philip’ when he performed circumcisions on six infants and one five-year-old boy at various locations in Dublin, Kildare and Wexford in 2018 and 2019, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard this week.

He was contacted by parents who wanted their sons circumcised and who had heard of him through friends.

Some of these parents had tried to get their child circumcised in hospital, but could either not access the procedure, or had been quoted around €1,500 for the surgery.

Ogbewe charged the parents between €300 and €350 in most cases to carry out the procedure in their own homes, usually while the child was on their parent’s lap or – in one case – on a kitchen table.

He used an anaesthetic spray in some but not all instances, the prosecution stated.

On one occasion, Ogbewe handed a mother a plastic bag of detritus from the procedure to dispose of, while in another case he refused to tell a child’s mother, who was a nurse, what kind of anaesthetic he had used on her son.

All the children were later examined by medical practitioners and nothing untoward was found in relation to the circumcisions, except for one boy who was found to have scar tissue and an uneven scar line.

Ogbewe (59), of Greenlanes, Drogheda, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to seven counts of endangerment and seven counts of assault causing harm in relation to each child on whom he performed the procedure on dates between January 1st, 2018 and October 23rd, 2019.

The court heard he was arrested in November 2018 in relation to the circumcision of another child in 2015 who ended up being hospitalised with complications from the procedure.

He was on bail for this matter when he carried out the offences before the courts in this case.

Ogbewe was jailed in May 2020 for three years for the endangerment of the child in the 2015 circumcision, which was backdated to November 2019 when he was taken into custody. He was released in October 2021.

He has four other previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Deception

He was also charged with deception by making himself out to be a medical practitioner, but these charges were dropped by the prosecution.

Defence counsel maintained that while Ogbewe now accepts what he did was wrong, he maintains that he never made himself out to be a medical practitioner.

“His attitude was that he was highly qualified, highly experienced as a circumcisor,” Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, told the court. “As far as he was concerned, he was fully qualified and experienced to do it.”

Sentencing Ogbewe on Wednesday, Judge Elma Sheahan said reports provided to the court outlined the “clear and obvious need for medical training, expertise and experience” on the part of the professional carrying out a circumcision due to the risks of the procedure and its potential complications.

She said the court was struck by the evidence of an “absence of anaesthesia” when dealing in some of these incidents, “with small babies held in their parents’ arms”.

The judge said it was “owing to luck” that the children did not suffer more.

She said Ogbewe’s moral culpability was high and that the aggravating features included the persistent and serious nature of offending and its impact on the victims, even though they did not suffer long-term harm.

She also noted Ogbewe has a previous similar conviction and had carried out these procedures when he knew or ought to have known that it should be performed by medical professionals, as he had made enquiries about the requirements to carry out circumcisions in Ireland.

She said she took into consideration the mitigation, including Ogbewe’s guilty plea and his personal circumstances.

Judge Sheahan said she would sentence Ogbewe on the endangerment counts, with the assault causing harm charges taken into consideration.

She imposed a global sentence of seven and a half years, with the final 12 months suspended on strict conditions to encourage rehabilitation.

‘Traumatised’

Detective Garda Avril Foley told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that some of the children’s parents got Ogbewe’s details from friends in the African community.

Ogbewe maintained he always used a numbing or anaesthetic spray on the children, but some parents reported there was no medication used during the procedure.

Some of the parents were “devastated” to hear Ogbewe was not a real doctor, the court heard.

There was just one victim impact statement in court from one mother, who said she was “traumatised” to hear Ogbewe was not a real doctor as he claimed, adding that she is thankful her son has no memory of the procedure.

Defence counsel said Ogbewe now accepts the dangers that were involved in carrying out the circumcisions. The court heard Ogbewe has a number of serious medical conditions, including a heart condition, diabetes and sciatica.

He has a lengthy work history, including as a cleaner, shop worker, security and refrigeration services. A letter of apology was also handed into the court.

Judge Sheahan imposed a four-and-a-half-year sentence on each of the seven counts of endangerment.

She said it was necessary that one of these sentences would run consecutively, to reflect “the seriousness of offending and the harm done”, with the remainder to run concurrently.

The judge said this gave a total sentence of nine years, which she reduced by 18 months to reflect the principles of totality and proportionality, giving an effective total sentence of seven and a half years.

Judge Sheahan said it was clear from documents provided to the court that Ogbewe accepted his wrongdoing and was able to secure work in the community. She suspended the final 12 months of the sentence to encourage further rehabilitation.

Judge Sheahan also granted the defence’s application to extend legal aid in the event of an appeal.



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