A doctor faces being struck off after he told an undercover reporter that he could arrange for female circumcision to be carried out on two girls aged 10 and 13.
Dr Ali Mao-Aweys was caught on camera discussing female genital mutilation (FGM) with a female investigator, who posed as an aunt asking about the procedure for her nieces.
The practice, which in its most extreme form can involve the almost complete sewing up of a girl’s vagina, has been illegal in the UK since 1985.
Dr Mao-Aweys denied offering to assist in arranging female genital mutilation, and was released without charge by police following an investigation.
However, a fitness to practise panel at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester today ruled that he had offered to help the undercover reporter, and will now consider whether he should be allowed to continue to work as a doctor.
Dr Mao-Aweys, who has private clinics in Birmingham and Haringey, north London, was targeted in an undercover Sunday Times sting masterminded by ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mahzer Mahmood in April 2012.
The Somalian national was filmed discussing the barbaric procedure on a camera hidden in the handbag of an unknown female investigator.
Posing as a patient ‘Ms A’, the reporter told the GP she wanted her two fictional nieces, aged 10 and 13, circumcised during a visit from Ghana.
The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 made it an offence to carry out the procedure on a British female anywhere in the world.
Mao-Aweys was arrested along with Birmingham dentist Omar Addow in May 2012 following the publication of the story on the investigation in the Sunday Times.
Both were released without charge, but Addow was struck off by the General Dental Council last year after he was found to have offered to perform circumcision on the girls.
Mao-Aweys, who denied the charges, is now facing the same fate after the fitness to practise panel ruled against him today.
‘The panel decided that the recordings indicate that Dr Mao-Aweys initially considered doing the operations himself,’ said chairman Dr Anthony Morgan.
‘Even if Dr Mao-Aweys did not understand the English word ‘nieces’ he quickly established the ages and genders of the children to whom Ms A was referring.
‘He then described an FGM procedure by drawing a diagram, which he referred to as a pharaonic cut [the most extreme form of FGM].’
Dr Morgan added: ‘It is clear that Dr Mao-Aweys knew that all FGM operations are illegal in the United Kingdom by the references he made to this fact in the consultation and by the comments of it being ‘dangerous’ with the possibility of going to jail.
At no point in the consultation did he raise the issue of safeguarding children or any objections on his part to FGM.
‘He did not seek to dissuade Ms A from continuing with her plans and only suggested that it would be safer (in the sense of not being illegal) for her to go abroad to have the operation carried out.’
The panel saw video footage from two consultations at Mao-Aweys’ Birmingham clinic as well as the transcript from a phone call made by the journalist.
AN ABUSE OF A HUMAN, WOMEN’S AND CHILD’S RIGHTS, OR PART OF RAISING A GIRL? WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION?
Sometimes called female circumcision, female genitial mutilation (FGM) refers to procedures that
intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice, described by charity Orchid Project as an ‘abuse of human, women’s and child rights’, is illegal in the UK.
However, it has been estimated that more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk in Britain every year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. The true figure is unknown due to the ‘hidden’ nature of the crime.
FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, most commonly before puberty starts, and many are taken overseas to undergo the procedure.
It is illegal to arrange for a child to be taken abroad for FGM. If caught, offenders face a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Often FGM is carried out by women with no medical training using knives, scissors, or even pieces of glass, while anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments are not generally used.
There are four main types of FGM: Clitoridectomy, where all or part of the clitoris is removed, excision, where all or part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia are removed, infibulation, which is the narrowing of the vaginal opening, and other harmful procedures such as pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning the area.
There are no health benefits to FGM. Removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies, causing pain, bleeding, risk of infection and even death.
FGM is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities, and is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and as a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. FGM is often motivated by the belief that it is beneficial for the girl or woman. Many communities believe it will reduce a woman’s libido and discourage sexual activity before marriage.
When asked about the procedure, sometimes referred to as ‘cutting’, he can be heard to say: ‘Ah yes. I can help you.’
At one point he also said: ‘A Girl. Yes I do girl.’
During their meetings Mao-Aweys offered to assist the investigator in her efforts to have two girls circumcised and said he knew a doctor in Birmingham who could help.
He told her it was a very short procedure, lasting less than ten minutes, as well as explaining the potential psychological problems and risks if the girls talked to friends or teachers.
At times the doctor seems reluctant to discuss performing the operation and warns the reporter of the legal ramifications if caught.
He said: ‘In Gambia, Somalia – my country – it’s no problem, but here they talk too much,’ adding: ‘I think it’s best you go to Africa.’
When Mazher Mahmood phoned Mao-Aweys on April 21 to put the allegations to the doctor he denied offering to assist in FGM.
He continued to deny the claims in interviews with police after he was arrested on 4 May 2012 and said he thought the reporter was referring to boys when she said nieces.
During the hearing, Mao-Aweys, whose first language is German, claimed he had been ‘entrapped’ by the journalist and had thought he was discussing a legal FGM ‘reversal’ procedure or circumcision on boys.
He failed to mount a full defence case when he walked out of the hearing after splitting with his legal team and losing a string of legal challenges to halt proceedings, claiming he had racked up around £250,000 in legal fees since the allegations emerged.
The panel found his version of events was ‘not credible or reliable’ and that the recordings show he quickly established they were talking about females.
‘Dr Mao-Aweys’ own account of the tone of the consultation with Ms A appears to be at odds with what is seen and heard in the video footage,’ said Dr Morgan.
The panel will now decide if his fitness to practise is impaired due to misconduct before considering what sanction to impose.
PROVEN: THE MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS TRIBUNAL SERVICE CHARGES AGAINST DR MAO-AWEYS
Between 12 April 2012 and 19 April 2012 in meetings and during a telephone conversation with a reporter working for the Sunday Times you:
a) Offered to assist in arranging an operation within the UK to effect the genital mutilation of a female child or children knowing that such an operation was illegal in the United Kingdom; PROVED
b) Provided information relating to a person whom you knew or believed could arrange or undertake such an operation which you knew to be illegal in the United Kingdom; PROVED
c) Gave advice to the journalist as to the arrangement of such an operation outside the United Kingdom in order to assist her or another to avoid UK legislation banning such a practice within the UK; PROVED
d) Offered to provide medication to facilitate such an operation outside the United Kingdom in order to assist her or another to avoid UK legislation banning such a practice within the United Kingdom. PROVED
FGM is most common among some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities and it is thought at least 66,000 girls and women in the UK are believed to be victims of FGM.
The term FGM applies to a range of procedures that alter the female genitals for non-medical reasons, the most serious of which is the almost complete sewing up of the vagina.
Although the practice has been banned in the UK since 1985 no successful prosecutions have been brought under British law, although two men face trial for FGM offences in January next year.
Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, 31, is accused of carrying out the procedure on a woman after she gave birth at Whittington Hospital in Archway, north London, on 24 November 2012.
The alleged victim’s husband, Hasan Mohamed, 40, will also face trial for allegedly encouraging FGM restoration.
The hearing continues.