An undercover Sunday Times reporter had sex with a dentist during a sting set up by the investigative journalist Mazher Mahmood to expose genital mutilation, a misconduct hearing has been told.
The newspaper published a story in relation to the dentist in April last year, leading to two men being arrested by West Midlands Police on suspicion of offences contrary to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. But the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges after citing inconsistencies in the female undercover reporter’s statements.
A misconduct hearing before the General Dental Council was given evidence that the unnamed journalist had gone to the Birmingham flat of a Somali-born dentist Omar Addow, 56, and had sex. The journalist recorded the visit to the flat on a hidden “handbag-cam”, for which Mr Mahmood – who is known as the Fake Sheikh because of his elaborate disguises – supplied the batteries.
Soon after arriving, the journalist – described on the hidden film as being 33 and of Ghanaian origin – disappears into the bedroom with Dr Addow for over an hour, the hearing was told. “When he leaves the bedroom, he appears to be wearing a sarong,” said Tom Kark QC, for the General Dental Council. “It appears he and the journalist have sexual intercourse. We may form the view that the journalist had gone to extra lengths to get her story.”
An article later appeared in The Sunday Times under the byline of Mr Mahmood, who now works for The Sun on Sunday. When the CPS decided to drop charges against the two arrested men, the paper’s publisher News UK, said it stood by its story. “The intention of this investigation was to highlight the alarming practice of female genital mutilation,” it said. The article was not accusing the doctors of committing a crime, but of being willing to consider aiding [female genital mutilation].”
Yet the hearing was told that Mr Addow had been a vocal critic of the outlawed practice. “It is dangerous. I am against the ritual circumcision of girls,” he told the journalist. The dentist later agreed to describe the procedure in some detail, however, and displayed the instruments needed for female circumcision.
When the reporter’s stomach apparently started rumbling, Mr Addow carried out “percussion” and examined her abdomen, the hearing was told. This led to him checking her breasts for abnormalities and performing a vaginal “exploration” before inviting her back to his flat, it is claimed.
It was only after they had disappeared into a room for an hour that the dentist was recorded on the handbag-cam saying, “I will do it for you. Between you, me and Allah only.”
Two weeks after the story appeared in The Sunday Times, Mr Addow was arrested, along with a GP who referred the journalist to him.
“The basis of the article was the allegation that the reporter, who pretended to be looking for someone who would circumcise children, was referred to Mr Addow by a GP,” said Mr Kark. “He was recorded undercover indicating that he was prepared to carry out female circumcisions on two girls, said to be 10 and 13.”
At his police interview, Mr Addow again claimed to be a vocal opponent of “cutting”, the tribunal heard. The dentist told police he “campaigned against it because his mother and his wife had both been badly circumcised in Somalia”.
Claiming that The Sunday Times reporter could be heard “provocating [sic] me”, Mr Addow denied ever having an intention of carrying out female circumcisions. But he freely admitted to police that he examined the reporter and had sex with her. “We did sex,” he told officers.
Mr Addow is accused of performing a medical examination on the woman while unregistered with the General Medical Council, however, as well as planning to carry out circumcisions.
“It is the General Dental Council’s submission that although he appeared to be very reluctant to take part in such a procedure, he was eventually persuaded to do so,” Mr Kark said. Performing or assisting female genital mutilation carries a maximum jail term of 14 years. The NHS estimates that 66,000 females in the UK have undergone female circumcision.
Mr Addow, formerly of Moseley, Birmingham, has entered no formal pleas to the allegations. GDC Investigators found that Mr Addow is currently working at the University Hospital of Somalia. If found guilty of misconduct, he could be suspended or struck off the register of dentists.
A Sunday Times spokesperson said: “The journalist in question was a freelance engaged in a legitimate undercover investigation into female genital mutilation, which is a matter of public interest. She denies having had sexual intercourse or any other sexually intimate contact with Mr Addow.”
Neither the undercover reporter nor Mr Mahmood will be called to give evidence. The hearing continues.