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13/08/2008
Bournemouth man pleads guilty in tenth successfully prosecuted reckless HIV transmission case in England and Wales

A 35 year-old man was yesterday sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison by a Bournemouth Crown Court judge after pleading guilty to the reckless transmission of HIV under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

By Edwin J. Bernard

A 35 year-old man was yesterday sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison by a Bournemouth Crown Court judge after pleading guilty to the reckless transmission of HIV under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This is the eleventh prosecution for the reckless transmission of HIV in England and Wales since 2003; eight have pleaded guilty, two were convicted following trials, and one was acquitted.

The details, in brief

According to various media reports (see below for direct links to the stories), the man and his 25 year-old ex-girlfriend who made the police complaint leading to the prosecution – both of whom cannot be named – had known each other for several years through work. Their sexual relationship began in May 2006 after meeting at a Bournemouth nightclub and ended in July 2006.

The woman said that she had always previously practised safer sex, and was pressured into having unprotected sex with the man, who is originally from Zimbabwe, after being reassured that he was not HIV-positive.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the woman knew that the man was taking medication, although she believed it was for asthma. Having being reassured by him that he was not HIV-positive, she continued to have unprotected sex with him, although she had ongoing concerns.

Within days of breaking up with him, in July 2006, a healthcare worker contacted the woman informing her that she may, indeed, have been at risk of acquiring HIV, and according to the woman she went to get an HIV test with her (now ex) boyfriend.

After being diagnosed HIV-positive she then contacted the police after ”finding paperwork confirming that her ex-boyfriend was diagnosed HIV-positive in October 2000.“

Various newspaper reports note that she told the court that she is suffering from depression and she admits in the interview that although he is now in prison she ”still feel[s] angry."

The case highlights some of the difficult moral and legal issues for healthcare workers, lawyers and HIV-positive individuals regarding prosecutions for HIV transmission. In particular, questions will be asked about the following:

--The man’s defence lawyer reportedly conceded that his client was ”dangerous“;

--It appears that phylogenetic testing was not used to confirm other circumstantial evidence suggesting that the man was responsible for the complainant’s HIV infection. The use of phylogenetic testing was key to the only acquittal so far in a prosecution for reckless HIV transmission.

--The role that the man’s healthcare worker played in this case is very unclear. The Department of Health recently undertook a consultation exercise on the duties of healthcare workers to both parties in these circumstances.


Media coverage details
The story has been covered nationally by BBC Online; the Daily Telegraph; and the Daily Mirror.

In addition, the local Dorset Echo has published four separate stories. This includes a report of the man’s guilty plea; his sentencing; an interview with the complainant; and a response from local HIV organisations.




Source: NAM