Life in jail proposed for Aids infectors

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The Independent Online
People who deliberately spread the Aids virus can be jailed for life the Government has proposed, but the new laws will mean that anyone who infects their partner by reckless behaviour will escape prosecution.

The proposed changes will also counter supermarket terrorists who inject diseases into foodstuffs and muggers who attack with syringes filled with HIV-infected blood.

As revealed in The Independent on Sunday, the Government yesterday published its plans for a major overhaul of the laws on assault.

The most controversial aspect of the changes to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which covers crimes such as grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm, are those involving the transmission of illness and disease. The reforms are aimed at modernising what is considered to be an outdated and confusing piece of legislation.

Under the proposals, which the Home Office hopes to publish as a Bill in the autumn, it will no longer be illegal to act recklessly and pass on the HIV virus. At present if someone knowingly has Aids, but keeps it a secret from their sexual partner who later becomes infected, they can be prosecuted from GBH, ABH, or unlawful wounding.

The Home Office wants to tighten up the law and has proposed restricting it just to people who deliberately transmit a disease intending to cause a serious illness. The maximum sentence for this offence is life in jail.

The Home Office has ignored advice of the Law Commission which recommended creating an offence of reckless transmission of disease.

A consultative document published yesterday said the changes aimed to "strike a sensible balance between allowing very serious intentional acts to be punished whilst not rendering individuals liable for prosecution for unintentional or reckless acts

A draft Bill contained in the consultation document proposes changing the current assault offences, which account for about 80,000 prosecutions a year, into four more up-to-date and clearer crimes. They are: intentional serious injury, with a maximum penalty of life; reckless serious injury with a maximum seven-year jail term; intentional or reckless injury with a five-year upper limit; and assault with a six-month maximum prison term.

There will also be a new offence of threatening to kill or seriously injure a third party, for example someone's boyfriend or mother. Offenders could face 10 years in jail for the crime.

The proposal which involves Aids offences was given a cautious welcome by the Terrence Higgins Trust, which provides help for people with HIV.

Chief executive Nick Partridge said: "It is the very rare case of deliberate infection which should be an offence. What is essential is that the law is clear and not open to malicious misuse.

But the George House Trust in Manchester is still opposed to any changes.