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Punishment for HIV 'crimes'?

20th September 2006

20092006_hiv1.jpgThe Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is asking for public opinion on the way in which it deals with cases involving the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of infections which cause grievous bodily harm.

The statement has come about since the landmark case of Dica, where the defendant was convicted of grievous bodily harm for 'recklessly infecting his partner with HIV'. The CPS say sexual health agencies, doctors and prosecutors have contributed to the document, which explains the way in which the CPS deals with cases involving the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of infections which cause grievous bodily harm.

There have been a number of high profile cases where people have been prosecuted for passing on HIV; a total of eight convictions in England and Wales under Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA), all based on the reckless transmission of HIV.

The cases pose medical, legal and ethical dilemmas. Some people argue that criminalising transmission increases stigma, discourages people from getting tested and could drive the Aids epidemic underground. Others condone the prosecutions, saying they bring justice and act as a deterrent.

The draft policy statement is available for public consultation from 1st September until November 3rd 2006, and can be found at http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/consultations/index.html.

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