Nafees Hamid : neurosurgeon gets 16 years for sex attacks

Nafees Hamid : neurosurgeon gets 16 years for sex attacks

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Introduction

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.

Facts 

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).

Comment

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.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Why do you keep caveating anything to do with sexual offences with “although in the current climate” you level it like an accusation, so the seriousness of sexual assault is suddenly dawning on the UK and that’s somehow wrong.

    • Interesting – didn’t realise I’d been saying that a lot, thanks for pointing it out.

      Sentences for all offences have gone up and up over the years, none more so than for sexual offences (with the possible exception of murder), but this is generally in the context of Parliament introducing things like IPP, or a structured approach such as with the Sentencing Guidelines Council. My concern in relation to sex cases, particularly in celebrity or high profile ones, the usual principles have gone out the window and there is a slight impression of ‘making it up as you go along’ which is an unfortunate impression to give (it also makes giving advice to people in the day job very difficult).

      So, it is an accusation of sorts – not that we are taking sexual offending too seriously, but on consistency of sentencing. The point is there though, so I’ll try and avoid the phrase in future …

  2. I feel it entirely appropriate to refer to ‘the current climate’, as it seems to me that there is a lot of hysteria nowadays over sex offences, which gives them a priority and prominence out of proportion to the actual harm done. I am not saying that sex offences are harmless, they are not, but when you compare sexual touching with violent assaults, drug dealing, taking people’s livelihood by theft & fraud, the actual harm done is no worse, and yet the sentence is. If I had the choice of being ‘digitally penetrated’ or hit over the head with an iron bar, or run down by a car, I know which I would choose, but it seems the punishment for something which could kill me would be less ! I have been digitally penetrated by a doctor. I didn’t enjoy it, but I got over it.
    I am amazed when I see ancient celebrities being put in jail for years for touching someone decades ago, and yet swindlers who rob people of their lives often walk free. It is too much to do with emotion.
    Of course it is a complex issue, but I feel that as a society we are led too much by a prurient press which uses sex to sell newspapers and gives it too much prominence generally. On the one hand it thrusts sex at us all the time, and on the other it encourages outrage over anything sexual.

  3. I am so glad to see these sentences as there has been a mainly male entitlement culture in the uk ( & abroad). Here we see a neurosurgeon abusing his power. This has also been the culture in the BBC & with others. It is also about power & control. Who is going to believe a young woman over a celebrity or a renowned professional? There needs to be more training around offences & training in schools & workplaces. A sexual assault or violence, abuse from someone meant to trust, affects the person for years & decades. They can also suffer from flash backs. We need to break the silence & report more, which is starting to happen. The sapphire – sexual offences teams take it very seriously. I am glad sentencing does as well. Hope the misognistic, entitlement culture will change.

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