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Jan18

Guide to prosecuting HIV cases ‘undermining’ public health, critics say

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Social Media, Activism, Gay Men, Current Affairs, Legal, Media, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

An Ontario court has rejected the Ministry of the Attorney General’s attempt to keep secret a “practical guide” to prosecuting HIV exposure and transmission cases. For the Toronto Star, Jacques Gallant reports.

Guide to prosecuting HIV cases ‘undermining’ public health, critics say

To read the full article by Jacques Gallant, visit The Star.com, here.

After fighting for years to keep it secret, the Ministry of the Attorney General has finally been forced to turn over a “practical guide” that has been distributed to Crown attorneys on how to prosecute HIV exposure and transmission cases. The document, prepared by Hamilton Crown attorney Karen Shea, was obtained by Toronto lawyer Marcus McCann, who first asked for it through a freedom of information request in 2012, and finally got it after the ministry lost a battle in Divisional Court late last year to keep it under wraps.

“Up until now, we’ve only seen the effects of this manual. We see the procedures that are described in this manual used in various cases,” McCann told the Star. “The most chilling part (of the manual) for me is the clear implication that Crowns should rely on an accused person’s statements to public health (agencies) in order to incriminate them.

“This isn’t new, and we’ve seen this evidence introduced at various trials, and HIV activists have been clear that this is a threat to public health’s ability to do its job. As a consequence, it risks undermining the goals of public health, which are to maintain a healthy population in Ontario.”

The 72-page document, dated October 2010, covers everything from the elements the Crown must prove to secure a conviction, to the kind of information that should be sought on an HIV-positive individual from public health officials, to potential responses that Crown attorneys can provide to arguments against the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure cases.

For example, as a response to the argument that criminalization will lead to “chilling” effects for HIV testing, Shea writes in the manual: “No evidence that this has in fact occurred — stands to reason that individual who suspects that he or she has been infected with HIV will be tested for HIV for personal health reasons.”

While it is not an official policy or guideline, a ministry spokesperson acknowledged to the Star that the document was prepared not only for Shea’s use, “but also to assist her colleagues in a difficult and complex area of the law.”

Shea did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

To read the full article by Jacques Gallant, visit The Star.com, here.

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