Less than two weeks after Mohammed Dica was sentenced to eight years in prison for infecting two women with HIV, a second man has been charged with a similar – but actually more serious - offense.
Whereas Dica was convicted of grievous bodily harm (section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861), Feston Konzani – who is either 26 or 27 according to various news reports – has been charged with the offence of grievous bodily harm with intent (section 18 of the same Act).
It is alleged that Mr Konzani deliberately infected two women and a teenage girl with HIV whilst living in the Middlesbrough area in Teesside. The alleged offences cover a three-year period between February 2000 and May 2003 and relate to a 15-year-old Middlesbrough girl, a 25-year-old woman from Italy, and a 26-year-old woman from Kenya. It is believed that Mr Konzani has fathered children by the two women, although their HIV status has not been reported.
According to Aberdeen University law lecturer James Chalmers, who has written an in-depth analysis on HIV transmission law for England and Wales in the forthcoming November issue of AIDS Treatment Update “it is fairly common practice to charge someone with the section 18 offence and to accept a plea of guilty to the section 20 offence as part of plea negotiations.”
It is possible, however, that “the prosecution may have evidence that Mr Konzani deliberately sought to infect the complainers with HIV, and was not just reckless as to the possibility of that happening. That would make it a very unusual case indeed.”
This more serious offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, whereas the offense of which Mr Dica was found guilty, carries a maximum penalty of five years for each count of the charge.
The Konzani case has attracted considerable attention already from the tabloid newspapers The Mirror and The Sun possibly due to the fact that Mr Konzani - originally from Malawi - is seeking asylum in this country. The latter´s headline: “'HIV killer' number two” appears particularly designed to alarm.
“Once again,” comments Chalmers, “we have a prosecution with a defendant who would be seen as politically unsympathetic in the current climate.” James Kelly, who was found guilty of transmitting HIV in Scotland two years ago, was an ex-prisoner; Mr Dica a refugee; and Mr Konzani an asylum seeker. “That may just be coincidence,” notes Chalmers, “particularly given the relative prevalence of HIV amongst certain populations - but it does start to look a bit worrying.”
Mr Konzani – who was remanded in custody without application for bail - will appear at Teesside Crown Court on November 18.