40 month sentence in first gay case of reckless HIV transmission in England

Michael Carter
Published: 04 August 2006

The first gay case of reckless transmission of HIV has ended with a sentence of forty months in prison . Mark James was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court, and received a sentence in line with the three to four years per offence handed down to heterosexual men and women for the reckless transmission of HIV.

James failed to turn up to court last week for sentencing and there is currently a warrant out for his arrest. Although he initially pleaded guilty to recklessly infecting his partner with HIV, he subsequently decided that the charge could be fought, but the judge refused to allow him to change his plea and for the case to be heard in a full trial.

Prosecutions for the reckless transmission of HIV in England and Wales have been brought under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. All the convictions have been for grievous bodily harm.

HIV organisations are united in their opposition to prosecutions for the reckless transmission of HIV, pointing out that they stigmatise people with HIV and undermine HIV prevention messages. In response to the latest sentencing, Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT) said, ‘”Where there is no evidence of deliberate intention to infect someone else with HIV, NAT does not believe criminal prosecutions are an effective way of reducing the transmission of HIV or protecting public health.  The stigma and discrimination fuelled by such cases only make it more difficult for someone living with HIV to discuss their status with a new sexual partner and make disclosure less likely." 

"Such prosecutions also encourage a dangerous complacency amongst HIV negative people, who are made to believe they can have sex without condoms unless someone tells them they are HIV positive. Prosecutions are a dangerous distraction from the real problem, that too few of us are practising safer sex. NAT is concerned that recent prosecutions have revealed a poor understanding of HIV amongst the courts, police and legal professionals. There is an urgent need for training in HIV issues for these groups to avoid miscarriages of justice.”

Mark James’s sentence is comparable to those handed down in heterosexual cases of reckless HIV transmission. This will be of interest to lawyers and community groups who are focused on the criminalisation of HIV transmission and suggests that judges will treat gay cases of HIV transmission as seriously as heterosexual cases.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.