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Change in law demanded as HIV man is convicted

20 January 2010

HIV groups in Scotland are demanding changes in the law relating to prosecution for reckless transmission of the virus.

The calls follow the conviction yesterday of chef Mark Devereaux for having unprotected sex with four different women without telling them about the risks involved.

Devereaux, who now lives in Dundee, was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, and admitted four charges of culpable and reckless conduct during the period from January 2003 to December 2008 at the High Court in Edinburgh.

One woman, with whom he had a six-year relationship, was found to be HIV positive when she was pregnant with twins by the 41-year-old. The others were not infected.

Devereaux admitted to police that he had not told any of his partners about his HIV, claiming he was "in denial".

The judge, Lord Pentland, deferred sentence for reports and ordered Devereaux's name to be entered on the sex offenders register.

Worried

HIV Scotland said it would be alarming if more prosecutions were brought in cases where no harm had been caused.

Chief executive Roy Kilpatrick said: "We are particularly worried about the fact that prosecutions were brought in this case in respect of three sexual partners of Mr Devereaux who had not contracted HIV." He recognised that the prosecution would have been brought because of the actual transmission that had taken place, and that the prosecution would have felt it necessary to put the full context before the court, but said it would be "alarming if the charges brought in this case open the door for future prosecutions in cases where no harm has been caused".

Bringing prosecutions where no harm had been caused would stigmatise people living with HIV.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said it was "totally unjust to single out people with an HIV diagnosis for punishment for unprotected sex", and most HIV transmissions were from people who had never had an HIV test.

She added: "We recommend that the Scottish Executive change the law so that people with HIV cannot be charged with culpable and reckless conduct if no transmission took place."

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