13 Mar 2012

HIV ruling could open way to serious sex charges

12:30 pm on 13 March 2012

A leading compensation lawyer says anyone who conceals a life-threatening sexually transmitted infection from a partner could now be charged with sexual violation.

The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled a woman had the right to get ACC compensation for mental stress suffered when she found out a man she had unprotected sex with had HIV.

John Miller, who was acting for the woman, says because she was not fully informed, she could not give full consent, and was therefore sexually violated.

He says that could also apply if a person didn't disclose that they had any potentially fatal sexually transmitted infection - such as gonorrhea.

Mr Miller says this sets a major precedent in New Zealand law that could only be changed by legislation.

'Good steer' for future cases

The Law Society says the ruling gives the legal fraternity a "fairly good steer" on future cases.

Society spokesperson Jonathan Krebs says the ruling has yet to be tested in a criminal context, as the case in question was an ACC one.

But he says it seems to give a nod to the issues around informed consent involved in criminal charges.

Like Mr Miller, Mr Krebs says it also raises questions about whether the same principle would apply to other sexually transmitted diseases.

The Aids Foundation says those infected with HIV risk being further stigmatised by society if they face harsh punishments in the legal system.

The Rape Prevention Education agency says however that the ruling sends a strong message to anyone considering not telling their sexual partner about their health status.