Between January 2012 and June 2013 Nafees Hamid, a Birmingham based neurosurgeon, sexually assault six of his patients. He was convicted on 17th November 2014 of nine offences against these six woman and, on 18th November, was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment.
As usual we are going off the news reports alone. Given the sentence, we hope that the full remarks will be published, so that we can understand why the sentence was passed.
The defence was (to some) that the alleged assaults did not happen and (to others) that there was a proper clinical need for the touching.
It’s a bit vague, but it seems that on the pretext of a clinical examination, the doctor digitally penetrated the six woman (thanks to the ‘Birmingham Updates’ website for further information).
Firstly, the BBC got the offences wrong. They called them ‘indecent assaults’, but that was actually abolished as an offence in 2004, and replaced by a number of offences, one being Sexual Assault. In this case, it seems that the offences charged were Assault by Penetration.
This makes much more sense as the maximum sentence for Sexual Assault is 10 years, so a sentence of 16 years would be (whilst lawful as there could be consecutive sentences) extremely high. The maximum for Assault by Penetration is life imprisonment.
Here, the Sentencing Guidelines apply – see page 14. Here it is arguable that the case is Category 2 Harm. This would be on the basis that, as a patient, the victims were “particularly vulnerable due to personal circumstances“. It seems to me that it falls more naturally into Category 3 however.
In relation to Culpability, it’s more straightforward. For a doctor to abuse his patient is a huge abuse of trust, so this is certainly Culpability A. This is part of the reason that I would put it as Category 3 – to increase the ‘Harm’ to Category 2 because the victims were patients is ‘double counting’.
For Category 2 (with Harm A) the starting point (after a trial, as Mr Hamid had) is 8 years, with a range of 5 to 13 years. For Category 3, the starting point is 4 years, with a range of 2 to 6. Why is the sentence then four times the starting point?
There are two features here – firstly, the fact that the attacks were perpetrated by a doctor is an aggravating feature, possibly over and above the breach of trust. To my mind, that cannot take it outside the sentencing range, but can take it above the starting point to about 5 years.
The second point is that there are multiple victims. This needs to be reflected in a longer sentence, however you can’t just multiply the correct sentence by six to get the ‘right sentence’. The Judge is entitled to increase the sentence to reflect this however.
Even so, the sentence seems very high and I would expect an appeal (although in the current climate, I wouldn’t rate his chances). A sentence more in the line of 8-10 years would be more what one would expect in the circumstances.