Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - an improved approach on the prosecution of the reckless transmission of HIV

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Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - an improved approach on the prosecution of the reckless transmission of HIV *

Summary: Prosecutions for reckless disease transmission under section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 began in 2003. Sentences have been particularly severe, with many people accused receiving custodial sentences or sentences of more than three years. Prosecutions so far have disproportionately affected men of African Origin.

Action taken: National Aids Trust (NAT) was concerned at the lack of clarity on how the law applied to disease transmission. NAT wrote to the CPS, after initial difficulties engaging the CPS on the issue, highlighting the impact of prosecutions on people with HIV (who are deemed disabled in law), and on African and gay communities. Crucially, NAT cited the DED and the Race Equality Duty in making the case for clear, proportionate prosecution guidance. This was effective. The CPS agreed to develop guidance and consult people with HIV, relevant organisations and the public in the process, so as to understand more of the impact of prosecutions and the medical and social complexities involved.

Outcome: In response to NAT's and others' concern, a CPS working group was established in order to draft prosecution guidance on the intentional or reckless transmission of HIV. In drafting the guidance, people living with HIV and HIV organisations were directly engaged and consulted.

In March 2008, the CPS published a Policy Statement and Legal Guidance on 'Prosecuting cases Involving the Intentional or Reckless Sexual Transmission of Infection'. This Guidance provided helpful clarification on the circumstances in which prosecutions for HIV transmission could take place to ensure people with HIV are not unfairly targeted. It is frequently cited internationally as a model on how to address this complex issue.

 

* Source: Joint response to the Government's Review of the Public Sector Equality Duty from a group of disability charities and disabled people’s organisations including: Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea, Action on Hearing Loss, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mind, National AIDS Trust, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Scope and Sense [2013]