First conviction for “biological” GBH through HIV transmission

A man who knowingly infected two women with the HIV virus was last week convicted of causing “biological” grievous bodily harm and was the first person in 137 years to have been convicted of deliberately transmitting a disease.

At last month’s trial, the court heard that Mohammed Dica, a married father of three, had knowingly infected two lovers with the HIV virus. The jury took three hours and 45 minutes to find him guilty of what the prosecution has called “biological grievous bodily harm” under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the decision to prosecute followed legal research “which suggested that, while it was not an offence as such to infect someone with HIV or other viruses and diseases, existing legislation might be sufficient to bring a prosecution on the facts of this case”.

In 2001 Stephen Kelly was found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of recklessly endangering Anne Craig, a mother of three, by repeatedly having sex with her. It was thought to be the first prosecution in a UK court of someone deliberately transmitting the HIV virus to another person. But that ruling was under Scottish common law rather than under a criminal law passed by Parliament.

In 1993 the Law Commission recommended the creation of a specific offence of transmitting HIV recklessly, following the case of Roy Cornes, an HIV-positive haemophiliac who was accused of recklessly infecting four women. He died before his case could reach court. The Home Office published proposals in 1998 to replace the Offences Against the Persons Act, including a proposal to introduce the offence of “intentional transmission of a disease with intent to cause serious harm”. The maximum penalty will be life in jail. However, such reforms fell by the wayside and the prevailing Home Office view was that the offence was covered by the Offences Against the Person Act.

The Terence Higgins Trust, the charity that helps people with Aids and HIV, has called on the Government for a reform of the law and to revisit its own 1998 proposals. “Currently, the law in this areas is vague and there’s no clear guidance on when it’s reasonable to bring a prosecution,” claimed the charity. “In particular, the distinction between reckless and deliberate HIV transmission is made less rather than more clear by the ruling.” It also argued that the legal position concerning disclosure, non-disclosure and denial of HIV-positive status was further muddied by the ruling.