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Friday, 4 February 2011

UK: Man accused of 'intentional' transmission last month turns himself in

A 27 year-old man whose name and picture was published last month by The Mirror, following allegations from a former partner that she became HIV-positive as a result of unprotected sex without him first disclosing that he had HIV, was arrested on Thursday by Runcorn police after he turned himself in.

Unusually, according to yesterday's Mirror report, he was charged for 'intentional' transmission under Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. These charges are highly unlikely to stick – proving intent, never mind proving that the man is the source of the complainant's virus – is extremely difficult.  Several other cases in England & Wales where individuals have eventually been found (or pleaded) guilty to 'reckless' HIV transmission began with charges of 'intentional' transmission.

There are no details reported to suggest that man acted with intent.  According to the original Mirror report

The mum who made the complaint is worried [he] could put other women at risk. She was in a relationship with him and having unprotected sex when she was told by one of his former lovers that he had HIV. When she confronted him it is alleged he confirmed he was infected. She was tested and discovered that she also had the virus. The woman, from Cheshire, has two young children from previous relationships. Neither child has the virus. She believes [he] knew he had the virus for more than four years.
What is unusual about this case is the fact that a UK national newspaper picked up on the story before he had been charged.  As far as I am aware, this has only happened once before in the UK, in Scotland (and nothing ever came of the case). 

Although The Mirror's story on Jan 15th, had the headline 'Police hunt man suspected of infecting lovers with HIV' there was only one complainant a "mum of two" who "suspects" he might have infected others.  Of note – and in contrast to US and Canadian statements by the police in similar situations – Runcorn police were somewhat restrained in their characterisation of the man.
A police spokeswoman said: “It is not believed that [he] poses a risk to the public as a whole. However there is potential for risk of harm to those in a domestic relationship with him. Detectives advise that any sightings be reported to police so that the information can be acted upon.
The news spread, virus-like, through other media in the UK and beyond: The Voice on January 17th;  Huddersfield Daily Examiner on January 19th; Yorkshire Post on January 20th; and yesterday – since the man is of Jamaican origin –  in the The Jamaican Star.
One interesting side note.  The woman who made the complaint "is said to have endured taunts from former associates. Her home has also been daubed with hurtful graffiti."  One wonders if the police are also investigating this alleged hate crime against her?  

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