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Friday, August 21, 2009

Canada leads the world in using criminal law to prosecute people for HIV transmission

Xtra.ca's Dale Smith has written an informative article, Canada's Record of Criminalization Creep. In it Smith says: If you think that the number of people facing criminal charges for having unprotected sex without disclosing their HIV status is on the rise, you’d be right. Canada is now a world leader in using the criminal law to prosecute people for HIV transmission. What began with charges of aggravated assault and public nuisance have since escalated to a conviction for first degree murder and a spate of attempted murder charges.

Dale Smith writes:
Since the justice system got involved with HIV transmission, the severity of charges has consistently increased. Meanwhile, the court is ruling that even sex with a condom won’t necessarily protect you from prosecution. What gives?

“Canada was one of the first countries to start laying charges with respect to HIV exposure or transmission,” says Alison Symington, senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. “It was the first Supreme Court in the world that had ever considered the issue.” By 1998, the Supreme Court was mulling over R v Cuerrier — the case of a heterosexual man charged with assault for exposing a partner to HIV. The court’s judgment said that if there’s a significant risk of serious bodily harm, then the HIV-positive person must disclose his or her status to sexual partners. At the time, the case was denounced by Canadian AIDS experts for using too blunt a tool — the courts — to deal with a public health issue.

The Cuerrier case resulted in an aggravated assault conviction but, since then, the charges have largely moved up to aggravated sexual assault — a more serious charge that can land a person on a sex offender registry. Aggravated sexual assault charges also paved the way for murder and attempted murder charges being laid across the country. READ MORE

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