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Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bermuda: Man pleads guilty, gets 10 years for HIV exposure

A 32 year-old HIV-positive man who had unprotected sex with his former girlfriend and then disclosed his HIV status in a break-up note, has pleaded guilty, and a Bermuda court has sentenced him to ten years in prison.

This is the first criminal HIV exposure case I've heard of from Bermuda, although the story, from The Royal Gazette, below, says it is "one of the first of its kind."

HIV man did not tell partner
June 14. 2008
By Sam Strangeways

An HIV-positive man who repeatedly had unprotected sex with a woman without telling her he had the disease was jailed for ten years yesterday.

Gary Delton Williams did not inform the woman he was infected until February this year when he handed her a note on the ferry which said he loved her, he was sorry and she needed to get tested.

Rory Field, the Director of Public Prosecutions, told Supreme Court yesterday that the 32-year-old had acted in a "cowardly and selfish way" by "spitefully" informing her of his condition after they split up.

He said every time an HIV sufferer has sex with someone "the roulette wheel spins again in terms of whether that person will catch HIV".

"The defendant did not use a condom," said Mr. Field. "There was nothing to stop him doing so."

Williams' victim has so far tested negative but Mr. Field said it takes some six months to be sure. The court heard she is "convinced" she is going to die, terrified for her children's future and has been seen by a psychiatrist for anti-depressants.

"It's beyond simply feeling bad," said Mr. Field. "She's still very upset, still very concerned about her children, as indeed is not surprising in the circumstances."

Williams pleaded guilty to sexual assault on April 15 this year, admitting that he knowingly engaged in a sexual act capable of transferring bodily fluid between October last year and February 20 this year. The court heard that condoms were used when the couple began sleeping together but that stopped and they had regular unprotected sex for a period of several months.

During that time, said Mr. Field, rumours that Williams had the virus began circulating and the woman confronted him several times. "It seems he denied it or said he was going to have a test," said Mr. Field. "Despite her raising this with him he continued to have sex without protection after that."

The relationship ended on February 20 and that day Williams handed her a piece of paper on the ferry.

It read: "My test came out positive so you'll need to get tested. I will let them know that you will come to them. I love you but you hated me. Sorry. I will always love you."

Mr. Field said the "shaken and upset" woman took her children to school, then went to the government clinic to be tested.

Williams, who tested positive for HIV in November 2005, was arrested on February 26 and admitted to Police in an interview that he should have told the woman.

"It would have been better but I was so afraid to lose the match that I had found," he told officers, adding that he had been "blind and selfish".

Mr. Field urged Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons to impose a substantial sentence of between eight and ten years because of the "great concern" for society of HIV being passed from one person to another.

"There is a waterfall effect," he said.

Larry Scott, defending, said his client accepted he acted recklessly "despite his love" for the woman and he was driven by his desire to have a normal relationship with her.

Mrs. Justice Simmons told Williams: "It's incredible that you could claim to love her.

"Your actions show that you are selfish and put your own carnal pleasure before the health of the victim. Society needs to be protected from you."

She said his guilty plea and, to a lesser extent, his contrition were the only mitigating factors.

"A very strong message must be sent out to the community and that message is that honesty in sexual relationships where a party is infected with the HIV virus is paramount," said the judge.

"Deception that puts an unsuspecting victim at risk and thereby his or her other unsuspecting partners in future will be met with severity."

The case is one of the first of its kind to go before the courts in Bermuda.

The defendant, who has previous convictions for dishonesty and could have gone down for 20 years for this offence, chose not to speak during yesterday's hearing and shrugged his shoulders at Mr. Scott after sentence was passed.

Williams, of no fixed abode, is understood to have at least two children of his own.



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