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Robert Smith KC and Matthew Donkin prosecute “exceptionally complicated” medical case

15/02/2024

Robert Smith K.C. and Matthew Donkin were instructed to prosecute five members of the same family for offences of causing or allowing a vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical injury, contrary to section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

The victim, Ambreen Fatima Sheikh, had been brought to the United Kingdom from Pakistan in 2014 following an arranged marriage with one of the sons of the family, Asgar Sheikh. Ambreen had been a bright and happy young woman, educated in Pakistan and described as ambitious. Nine months after arriving in the United Kingdom and moving in with the defendants she was admitted to hospital in a profoundly unconscious state. She has remained unconscious since admission and is diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state”, without awareness of herself or her environment and survives only because she is being fed through a gastric tube. Prior to her admission to hospital, Ambreen had become increasingly isolated and was the subject of violence by the occupants of the household including by the application of a caustic substance to her back and buttocks causing a large chemical burn which was left untreated.

The cause of Ambreen’s collapse was ultimately identified as being the deprivation of glucose to the essential systems of the brain which had caused her to fall into a deeply obtunded state in which she was left by the defendants for some 48 to 72 hours before she aspirated stomach content, having lost her ability to protect her own airway. The glucose deprivation was the result of the unlawful administration, by trick or by force, of the anti-diabetic drug glimepiride. Ambreen was not diabetic and the administration of that blood-sugar reducing drug was catastrophic.

The defendants denied any responsibility for Ambreen’s condition and together provided a false history to the treating medical practitioners and attempted to dispose of Ambreen’s clothing and bedding to disguise her true condition.

The case was heard before the Hon. Mrs. Justice Lambert at Leeds Crown Court in October 2023, lasting for 8 weeks. During the trial the prosecution called medical experts in the fields of neuroradiology, diabetology, dermatology and plastic surgery, electrophysiology, neurology, physiology, anaesthesia and intensive care and pharmacology. The case was described by the Court as being as complicated and demanding, medically, as criminal trials can be. Four members of the family were convicted of the offence contrary to section 5. All defendants were convicted of counts of perverting the course of justice.

Robert and Matthew were instructed by Mr. Hall of the Complex Casework Unit, CPS Yorkshire and Humber and the investigation was conducted by the West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team.

The case is reported here:

Authors

Robert Smith KC

Call 1971 | Silk 1986

Matthew Donkin

Call 2004

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