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Friday 21 November 2008

UK: Man jailed for two years for sexual hepatitis B transmission - world first?

In what appears to the first ever criminal case of sexual hepatitis B virus transmission, a man in Gloucester has been sentenced to two years in prison under Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 - the same law used to prosecute 'reckless' sexual HIV transmission. The man, originally from Turkey, pleaded guilty; it seems he had a lawyer who had no idea about the limitations of phylogenetic analysis.

The case sets a worrying precedent for other sexually transmitted infections. It is also a concern because hepatitis B is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV and can be transmitted in ways that do not involve sex, such as sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person. Furthermore, the public health message on hepatitis B prevention is to get vaccinated, rather than rely on partner disclosure and condom use.

It seems very likely that Gloucester police, the local Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the man's laywer were not aware of the recent CPS policy statement and legal guidance for prosecutors for cases involving the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of serious infection which states that:

  • Prosecutions are unlikely to take place as a result of one-off sexual encounters (the reports suggest that the alleged transmission took place as a results of a single sexual encouter). “It will be highly unlikely that the prosecution will be able to demonstrate the required degree of recklessness in factual circumstances other than a sustained course of conduct during which the defendant ignores current scientific advice regarding the need for and the use of safeguards,” it says in the legal guidance for prosecutors.
  • Scientific evidence must be used to show that the defendant infected the complainant, but this evidence alone cannot conclusively prove the responsibility of the defendant for the complainant’s infection. “The prosecutor will need to be satisfied that the complainant did not receive the infection from a third party or that the complainant did not infect the defendant,” it says in the legal guidance for prosecutors. “This means that the prosecutor will need to know about any possibility which is compatible with the scientific evidence that the complainant was infected by a third party. This means enquiries will have to be made about the relevant sexual behaviour and relevant sexual history of the complainant.
This is why a defendant should always plead not guilty (and why the CPS should not accept a guilty plea) based only on phylogenetic evidence.

In a statement, the police said: "The case is the first in Gloucestershire to use techniques in DNA analysis to provide evidence that the defendant infected the victim and that the illness did not come from any other source.”

Although hepatitis B infection does not carry the same stigma as HIV, and is rarely life-threatening (fewer than one-in-ten adult acute infections, as in this case, ever become chronically infected with the virus, and even then, only about 15%–25% of people with chronic hepatitis B develop serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer) this didn't stop the UK national tabloids, The Mirror and The Sun, from creating sensational headlines (well they would, wouldn't they?). The Sun carried a photo of the man, and, stooping even lower, The Mirror even printed the name of the complainant. (In contrast I'm impressed by the Dutch, who do not ever print the names of the accused in such criminal cases.)

I'm disheartened that this case ever reached court given reassurances from the CPS that cases like these would be hard to prove, and not be in the public interest to prosecute. I'm also not sure that it is necessarily the case that people diagnosed with STIs are "rarely" 'reckless' in this manner, as suggested by both the police and The Sun Woman Editor. I'm more certain that the man's ethnicity and 'foreignness' played a major part in his prosecution, as it did the first three cases of 'reckless' HIV transmission in England & Wales.

If there any lessons to be learned, it is that anyone accused of such a 'crime' needs to get connected to lawyer who understands the issues.

Man jailed for infecting woman with deadly Hepatitis during sex
Cotswold Journal
Wednesday 19th November 2008

GLOUCESTER Crown Court jailed a Turkish man for two years after he admitted infecting a North Cotswolds woman with chlamydia and deadly Hepatitis B the first time they had sex together.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Gloucestershire, cafe and restaurant worker Ercan Yasar, 29, of xx Street, Cheltenham pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm on the woman on September 15 last year.

The court heard Yasar knew he had life-threatening Hepatitis and had been warned he should always use a condom when having sex but did not tell the woman, who was his girlfriend, about his condition when they had unprotected intercourse during a drinking session at his home.

Prosecutor, Giles Nelson, said the woman became “extremely” ill as a result of the hepatitis infection and spent ten days in hospital.

Mr Nelson said Yasar and the woman, after meeting at a Cheltenham night club in August last year, exchanged telephone numbers and texted each other over the following days before dating over subsequent weeks.

He said she went to Yasar's home after attending a works lunch and they had unprotected sex once.

In a statement, the police said: "The case is the first in Gloucestershire to use techniques in DNA analysis to provide evidence that the defendant infected the victim and that the illness did not come from any other source.”

Gloucestershire police said Yasar will face deportation when released from jail.

Man jailed for causing illness
(undated story)

A man has been jailed for 2 years for infecting a 27-year-old Gloucestershire woman with Hepatitis B. 29-year-old Ercan Yasar from Bristol was found guilty of causing GBH by not informing her he had the illness before having unprotected sex.

The woman contacted police in December 2007, after falling ill following unprotected sex with Yasar, saying he had not told her he had infection.

Yasar was arrested in April 2008 and Police were able to prove that he had been informed previously that he had the illness and was told not to have unprotected sex.

The case is the first in Gloucestershire to use techniques in DNA analysis to provide evidence that the defendant infected the victim and that the illness did not come from any other source.

Detective Constable Paul Day says: “We’re very pleased with today’s result, especially as we believe this to be the first case of its kind in the county.

“We would also like to reassure the public that incidents of individuals recklessly infecting their partners with sexually transmitted illnesses and disregarding the consequences are rare, but we hope that this case encourages people to take responsibility for their sexual health.”

Man jailed for passing on hepatitis B
The Times
November 19, 2008

Gloucester A man who had unprotected sex and knowingly gave a woman potentially life-threatening hepatitis B was jailed for two years. Ercan Yasar, 29, a Turkish restaurant worker from Cheltenham, Gloucester, knew that he had the disease and had been warned that he should always practise safe sex. The woman fell ill a week after a one-night stand with him. Detective Constable Paul Day, of Gloucestershire police, said the use of DNA to prove the source of the infection made it the first case of its kind in Britain. Yasar, who admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm on the woman, faces deportation on his release.

Lover jailed for passing sex disease
The Mirror

A man who infected his girlfriend with Hepatitis B the first time they made love was yesterday jailed for two years.

Turkish-born Ercan Yasar, 29, knew he had the life threatening ailment and had been told by doctors always to use a condom.

But he did not tell girlfriend xxxx xxxx, 27, when they had unprotected sex during a drinking session at his home in Cheltenham, Gloucs.

She became very ill and spent 10 days in hospital.

Passing sentence at Gloucester crown court, recorder Neil Ford QC told him: "Your act of unprotected sex was extremely inconsiderate, selfish and dangerous.

"You satisfied your sexual urges without thought of the danger that you were causing her."

Two years for hepatitis sex liar
The Sun
19 Nov 2008

A TURKISH waiter was jailed for two years yesterday for knowingly infecting a woman with deadly Hepatitis B – a crime branded biological GBH by his own lawyer.

Ercan Yasar, 29, knew he carried the virus and had been warned he should always use a condom during sex.

But he did not tell his 27-year-old victim – who thought he was the man of her dreams – about his condition.

Yasar also gave the woman chlamydia but that did not form part of the charge. He admitted causing her grievous bodily harm.


The judge, Recorder Neil Ford QC, told him: “Your act of unprotected sex was an extremely inconsiderate, selfish and dangerous one.

“You satisfied your sexual urges without thought of the danger that you were causing her.”

The court heard the woman fell extremely ill as a result of the hepatitis and spent ten days in hospital.

She has since recovered but will carry the virus – which in chronic cases can cause fatal liver cirrhosis and cancer – for the rest of her life.

Prosecutor Giles Nelson told Gloucester Crown Court “selfish” Yasar learned he had Hepatitis B in 2003. He met his victim at a club in Cheltenham last August and they dated for a few weeks before having sex one Saturday afternoon after a four-hour vodka binge.

Lloyd Jenkins, defending, said Yasar acted in “a moment of madness”. He admitted: “It is biological GBH.”

Recorder Ford, who recommended Yasar be deported after his sentence, told him: “It is the sort of infection one would expect by any standards of decency would be communicated.”

The victim was not in court but housemate Sally Pulham said: “We all thought he might be the one for her – how wrong we were. It has ruined her life.”


My view
By SALLY BROOK, Sun Woman Editor

To have unprotected sex knowing you are carrying STIs is reckless and evil.

Yasar showed callous disrespect for the woman and it is absolutely right he should be jailed for putting his own gratification ahead of another’s welfare.

Thankfully such incidents are very rare. But unless you know for sure your partner is clear, it is not worth taking any risks.



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