A paediatric surgeon has told the trial of a couple accused of the female genital mutilation of their daughter that the injury he saw did not match the father's explanation of how the injury occurred.
The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of carrying out an act of female genital mutilation on a girl at an address in Dublin on September 16, 2016.
The 37-year-old man and 27-year-old woman also pleaded not guilty to one count of child cruelty on the same day.
Today, Dr Sri Paran told Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that he has worked as a consultant paediatric surgeon for two Dublin hospitals since 2010.
Dr Paran said he met the child when she was wheeled into an operating theatre. He said that she was bleeding from just above where he would expect the clitoris to be and he observed that the clitoral head was absent.
He said that the bleeding was “not planning on stopping any time soon”. He said that had the bleeding not been stopped, by the following morning the child would have had difficulty breathing and would have gone into shock after around 20 hours.
Dr Paran said the injury looked like a “cut”. He said the child's father gave an explanation that the injury had been caused when the child had a dirty nappy removed, she left the bathroom and something caused her to fall onto a toy.
He said he had seen the toy and it had a steering wheel and a few things that was probably imitating a car. He said that based on his professional experience this was not a “crush injury” and the story did not match with the injury he saw.
Dr Paran agreed with Patrick Gageby SC, defending the female accused, that he had never seen an injury like this before. He agreed that the child seemed well nourished and well cared for aside from the injury.
Dr Sinead Harty told Mr Costelloe that she is a consultant paediatrician and qualified forensic examiner who is the lead in child protection in the Dublin hospital in question. She said that in the course of her work she carries out the assessment of between 30 to 50 children a year for child protection concerns.
Dr Harty said she carried out an assessment of the child on September 19, 2016. She said before the examination the child's father gave her the explanation that the injury was sustained when the child fell on a toy.
She said that she did not see the clitoral head during her examination of the child. She said her conclusion was that the injury was not consistent with falling on a toy as there was no bruising or swelling on the outside skin or any of the normal things you would see if someone fell on something.
Dr Harty said when the only change in the anatomy was the clitoris being missing she thought it was caused by female genital mutilation.
Dr Harty agreed with Mr Gageby that both parents have denied being part of any female genital mutilation of the child.
In his opening address to the jury, Mr Costelloe said it was the state's case that on September 16, 2016, the two accused arrived at a hospital with their daughter and asked for assistance as she was bleeding.
Mr Costelloe said a paediatric surgeon performed a procedure to stop the bleeding and came to the conclusion that the injury was not sustained accidentally.
He said that the clitoral head of the then one-year-old girl had been excised and removed from her body. He said the surgeon along with his colleagues made a referral to gardaí who commenced an investigation.
Mr Costelloe told the jury they would hear evidence that the accused suggested that the injury was sustained by the girl falling on a toy. He told they jury that they would see this toy.
He said that the offence of female genital mutilation is defined by legislation as being “the excision, infibulation or other mutilation of the whole or any part of the labia majora, labia minora, prepuce of the clitoris, clitoris or vagina of a girl or woman”.
Mr Costelloe said that for the avoidance of doubt, the legislation outlines that it is not a defence to say that the female genital mutilation was consented to by the girl or woman, or by her parents or guardians, or that is has been done for customary or ritual reasons.
He said it was not the state's case that either accused actually performed the act of female genital mutilation. He said it was the state's case that they aided, abetted or procured the act of female genital commission and that they must have been present for its commission.
The trial continues tomorrow/ before Judge Elma Sheahan and a jury.