Dad faces jail for botched circumcision of 4-year-old
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011 3:22PM PST
A Vancouver-area man who tried to circumcise his four-year-old son on the kitchen floor after a religious awakening could face more than a decade in jail after being convicted of aggravated assault.
WARNING: Details in this story may be disturbing to some readers.
The father, referred to as DJW in court documents to protect the identity of his son, performed the botched operation on April 2, 2007 after researching the procedure on the internet. He had circumcised himself just a few years earlier, and required stitches as well as treatment for an infected penis.
DJW was convicted in 2009 of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and sentenced to 12 months in prison, but that decision was thrown out by the B.C. Court of Appeal on Thursday. A trio of appeal court judges ruled that the would-be mohel should be convicted on the more severe charge of aggravated assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail, as well as assault with a weapon.
According to court documents, the father "changed his world view" after the birth of his son and began to adhere to the laws of the Old Testament. He describes his religion as "of the Abrahamic faith," similar to Judaism in some ways, but not all.
In 2007, he decided that he needed to remove his son's foreskin in time for Passover, and consulted with two rabbis and four doctors on the procedure. The doctors told him the operation could not be done without a general anesthetic, which they could not justify for such a young child.
Frustrated, the dad tried to register in a course that trained mohels to perform circumcisions, but learned that only doctors would be allowed in.
And so, DJW decided to perform the procedure himself, resolving that he could not live in the same house with an uncircumcised boy. He told his young son that it would be "a way of unifying the family and being a family in God," according to the original court decision.
He gave the little boy a teacup full of homemade honey wine, then laid him down on top of a towel and some garbage bags and made two slices in the foreskin, using a wooden cutting board for support.
To stop the bleeding, he applied something called Wonder Dust, a powder used to treat the wounds of racehorses. The Wonder Dust label warns that it is "not for human use. For veterinary use only."
The boy's mother was at home at the time of the circumcision, but she suffers from a serious brain injury sustained during a car crash. She testified that she knew about the circumcision, but was unable to inspect her son after the procedure because she could not stand the sight of blood.
The next night, while the little boy lay in pain at home, the father travelled to Abbotsford for a traditional Passover celebration. The congregants killed a lamb, ate it and then burned the remains while they drank wine.
A few days later, a social worker arrived at the family home with police in tow after receiving a tip about the circumcision. DJW was read his Charter rights and the little boy was taken to BC Children's Hospital.
The pediatricians who examined him found his penis coated with what appeared to be hardened ash, which would not wash off and had to be removed with scissors. An experienced doctor completed the circumcision, and the boy and his older sister were removed from their family home and sent to live with their grandparents.
The boy has fully recovered from the circumcision.
During the appeal process, the father contested his criminal negligence conviction, but that bid was denied on Thursday. He has yet to be sentences on the aggravated assault conviction.