New rules on HIV prosecutions released

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New guidelines on how prosecutors should deal with cases involving the intentional or reckless transmission of STIs have been published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today.

After extensive consultation with organisations over a period of 18 months, the CPS has devised a public policy and guidance statement that covers the Code for Crown Prosecutors and how it should be implemented in all cases.

The guide also outlines offences the CPS will consider in relation to cases of the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of infection, what needs to be proven in order for charges to be brought as well as witness and victim care issues.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald QC, said:

“Although these types of cases are rare, we are publishing this statement because we recognise the importance of consistent decision-making.

“We have consulted clinicians, charities and community groups on the development of this policy and guidance.

“We have benefited substantially from listening to their views and concerns, and we have greatly appreciated their input.”

The publication of the guidelines has been met with support from charity groups.

While stating they maintain their opposition to prosecutions for the reckless transmission of HIV, the National AIDS Trust welcomes the clarifications the CPS has made.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust said:

“Criminalising HIV transmission increases stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV and can deter testing.

“However this new guidance from the CPS is helpful in clarifying the prosecution process.

“Whilst prosecutions continue the National AIDS Trust will work to ensure the best possible advice is available to prosecutors, lawyers, police, support organisations, healthcare workers and people living with HIV.”

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) added:

“The new CPS guidance will go a long way towards removing confusion, cutting the most inappropriate investigations short and clarifying where people with HIV and other STIs stand if they transmit them.

“THT accepts prosecutions for intentional transmission, but we remain opposed to prosecuting reckless transmission and believe that it harms rather than helps public health goals.

“However, if prosecutions do take place, it is important that the are regulated and consistent in their conduct and that anyone with an STI knows clearly what the law is.”

The CPS is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

To date there have been ten 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.

Thirteen cases in total have so far gone to Crown Court in England and Wales, although many more have been pursued and abandoned.