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J Med Ethics. 2002 Jun;28(3):160-3.

The criminalisation of HIV transmission.

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  • School of Law, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, UK. j.p.chalmers@abdn.ac.uk


Since Bennett, Draper, and Frith published a paper in this journal in 2000 considering the possible criminalisation of HIV transmission, an important legal development has taken place. February 2001 saw the first successful United Kingdom prosecution for the sexual transmission of disease for over a century, when Stephen Kelly was convicted in Glasgow of recklessly injuring his former girlfriend by infecting her with HIV. Whether English criminal law (as opposed to Scots law) can apply criminal penalties in such a case, however, still remains uncertain. This paper, in addition to providing some background to the Kelly case, briefly explores the current possibilities for prosecution under English law. It then proceeds to outline and comment on the issues relevant to criminalisation, responding in part to points made by Bennett, Draper, and Frith and also by Bird and Leigh Brown in a recent article in the British Medical Journal.

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