Prosecutions for HIV and STI Transmission and Exposure Leaflet

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Thursday 21st March 2013

This leaflet aims to explain the COPFS policy and Scots law in a straightforward way and to answer some of the most common questions and concerns people have. It is not a substitute for legal advice.

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You may have heard or read about prosecutions for HIV transmission in Scotland. There have been a small number of high-profile cases in the last decade that have resulted in individuals being found guilty of passing on HIV (transmission) or putting another person at risk of HIV (exposure) and given substantial prison sentences. For people who are diagnosed with HIV, this can raise a number of concerns and questions.

These cases are not the result of a Government decision to prosecute people for passing on HIV. They began in Scotland in 2001 because prosecutors tested existing laws to see if they could be applied to HIV. As a result there was on-going confusion about how the law should be interpreted and used in relation to transmission of and exposure to HIV.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has recognised the need for clarity and has now published a prosecution policy on what the law in Scotland actually means. The policy outlines the circumstances in which a prosecution is likely to take place and helps to explain what constitutes a crime in relation to HIV transmission or exposure under Scots law. HIV Scotland, Terrence Higgins Trust, and National AIDS Trust (NAT) oppose prosecutions for ‘reckless’ transmission or exposure. However, in this document we aim to give an objective account of the law and provide advice that is helpful and in the best interests of all readers.

This leaflet aims to explain the COPFS policy and Scots law in a straightforward way and to answer some of the most common questions and concerns people have. It is not a substitute for legal advice. We would recommend that people involved in these cases access good legal advice and representation as soon as possible. If you need advice on securing legal representation, read the section entitled ‘What do I do if someone accuses me?’ in this guide or call HIV Scotland on 0131 558 3713.