Nigerian cleared in circumcision case

 

A Nigerian national who carried out a circumcision on a one-month old baby boy who later bled to death was found not guilty of reckless endangerment yesterday following a four-day trial at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court.

Osagie Igbinidion, of Millennium Court, Kilkenny, spent 4½ months in jail after he was charged with reckless endangerment in and about the circumcision of 29-day-old baby Callis Osajhae.

Addressing the jury before they retired to consider their verdict, Judge Kevin Haugh said it was important for jurors not to bring their "white Western values" to bear upon their deliberations.

He described the case as a "clash of two cultures."

"This is a relatively recent matter that Ireland will have to deal with now that we have a significant migrant population. You are not asked whether this form of procedure is acceptable in Ireland. If you start thinking along those lines, you are doing Mr Igbinidion a great injustice."

He added that Mr Igbinidion did not have the benefit of being tried by peers who would understand his background and culture.

Mr Igbinidion, who is a fourth-generation circumcisionist, carried out the procedure on Callis at 5pm on August 17th, 2003 after the child's parents, who are Nigerian, contacted him because of his expertise.

The child incurred serious bleeding during the day and was effectively dead when his parents brought him to hospital at 4.50am on the morning of August 18th, 2003.

The jury of 10 men and two women spent an 1½ hours deliberating yesterday before returning a unanimous not guilty verdict.

Outside the court, an emotional Mr Igbinidion said he felt vindicated by the verdict before going on to thank God, his wife Kathleen and her family for their support over the last two years. He said the pain of Callis's death would always be with him.

"Circumcision is not a crime and I am delighted that the Irish Government knows that," he said.

"This is not a country that is used to circumcision. I would like to get permission from the Justice department [to circumcise]."

Mr Igbinidion claimed he had been branded a "witch doctor" in prison and hit with tennis balls by his fellow inmates. He added that the media coverage of the case before his trial had not helped the situation.

Mr Igbinidion's solicitor, Brian Chesser, said his client's thoughts and prayers were with the family of Callis Osajhae. He thanked the jury for abandoning their "Western mores and folk ways" when deliberating on the case.

"Osagie served four months and seven days in prison and he has been vindicated in his stance on what he did. What he did was done to the best of his ability with his skill and knowledge."

The State's case was that Mr Igbinidion failed to apply pressure to the wound after he circumcised the infant. Prosecution counsel argued the defendant had failed to be contactable in the event of complications after the procedure and had not given the parents sufficient aftercare advice.

However, the physician who carried out the postmortem on Callis Osajhae, Dr Margaret Bolster, said that the circumcision seemed to have been conducted in a professional manner. The court also heard evidence from various witnesses which indicated that the infant would probably have lived if he had been taken to hospital soon after his bleeding became heavy.

In his address to the jury Judge Haugh said the case had dealt with what was a widely acceptable practice in Nigeria. The use of olive oil to stop the circumcised wound from drying out was an improvement on what would have been used in Nigeria, which was clean engine oil.