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Sunday 4 November 2007

Canada: British Columbia man receives 4 1/2 years for HIV exposure; shoddy reporting

For an example of shoddy journalism, and inaccurate reporting, you can't beat this article from the Vancouver Sun. The headline is wrong (the man is 36); the writing is abysmal (he was prosecuted for breaking HIV exposure laws established by R vs. Cuerrier - there was no transmission - but he is referred to as an "HIV transmitter"); and the journalist appears to have neither understanding of criminal law nor the difference between HIV and AIDS.

HIV-positive youth jailed after deceiving partner

Sunny Freeman

PRINCE GEORGE - An HIV-positive man who lied to his sexual partner about having the virus has been sentenced to a four-year, eight-month prison sentence by a Prince George Provincial Court judge.

Because of time already served in custody, the sentence means he will actually spend two more years in jail.

The man, who was identified in court documents only as J.M.L, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault against a 24-year-old single mother he met in an online chat room while living in a Prince George halfway house in 2004.

The man, who was 36 when the affair began in November 2004, had an unprotected sexual relationship with "Miss X" until March 2005, according to court documents. The defendant knew he had AIDS, the court documents said, but deceived his partner about his condition.

When Miss X expressed concern about sexually transmittable diseases, the man produced a document that appeared to show he tested negative for HIV/AIDS. The document was actually for tests that were part of the defendant's ongoing treatment for HIV/AIDS.

"I have empathy for the defendant and his situation. But that empathy is tempered by the grave concern I have for the situation that Miss X found herself in through no fault of her own," said
Judge Michael Brecknell in the reasons for sentence. The defendant also lied to the woman about his criminal history. He gave her a document that showed he had 15 criminal offences.

He actually had 53 offences on his criminal record, including seven break and enters, two robberies and eight fraud charges. A concerned housemate of the infected man at the halfway house told Miss X in 2005 about the defendant's condition. She immediately ended the relationship and went for HIV testing.

She was given a prophylactic drug cocktail for several months. She continues to test HIV negative. The man had already served about 16 months after being arrested, which counts double toward his sentence.

The defence argued that sentencing the man to two additional years in prison could amount to a life sentence, due to his deteriorating health. But Brecknell ruled the defendant should be locked up to protect the public.

"The defendant, in my view, is a danger not only to Miss X but to any other woman who the defendant may feel some desire toward," said Brecknell.

This is not the first criminal case involving HIV transmitters in Canada. Several recent precedent setting cases across the country informed the judge that the number of victims, number of occasions on which unprotected sex occurred and whether the victim became infected should be factored into the court's sentencing decision.

© Vancouver Sun



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