Poor scientific or medical knowledge is a factor in increase in criminal charges for HIV transmission in the UK

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Lisa Power presented a poster with an analysis of 24 cases of criminal prosecutions related to HIV transmission reported to the Terrence Higgins Trust between June 2005 and June 2006. This is a large recnt increase in such reports, and many cases received high media attention.

Sources of the reports (n) were the accused person (9), the complainant or immediate family (5), the police (3), another NGO (3), a solicitor (2) and from a doctor (2). Of the 9/24 cases that resulted in court action, there were 4 convictions, 2 case dropped after initial hearing (following THT/legal interventions), 1 awaiting trial, 1 under appeal and 1 outcome unknown.

All 4 convictions were from guilty pleas, however, police and prosecution media statement significantly mis-stated the offence as ‘deliberate’ instead of ‘reckless’. The two dropped cases were where no transmission had occurred, although prosecution was being pursued, despite English law being clear that no offence had taken place. In one case, the accused was the victim of assault by the complainant, but charges were still followed.

Although the study recognised limitations of some case details, they identified that 8/24 investigations involved poor scientific or medical knowledge, and substantial investigations took part in 8/24 cases before transmission was known.


A draft of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) policy for prosecuting cases involving sexual transmission of infections which cause grievous bodily harm is available online for public comment. The document covers the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. The deadline for comments is 3 November, 2006.

The consultation document is also available to view on the UKC website which also includes an anonymous online response form for individuals who would like the UKC to respond on their behalf.

Further information on the criminal prosecution of HIV and other STIs as well as guidelines for commenting on the CPS consultation document are available on the THT and NAT websites.


Power L, Ward P. AIDS assassins? The impact of introducing criminal charges for transmission of HIV in the UK. XVI International AIDS Conference, Toronto, Canada. 13-18 August 2006. Poster abstract MOPE0910.

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