London courts: HIV-infected spitter draws suspended sentence
YX is trying.
At 43, she’s a survivor, living a life she gave over to the streets years ago. Drug addiction, prostitution and an HIV infection all have shaped her, toughened her.
But in a London court this week, she sat with head held high while defence lawyer Heather Barnes described how X hasn’t used drugs in more than a week and hasn’t been in trouble for three years. X has some stable housing, for now, and clearly explained her reasons and remorse for spitting in a man’s face on
“I realize what I did was really serious,” she told Ontario Court Justice Jeanine LeRoy.
Never did she think when she spat on him that she wanted to infect him with HIV, she said.
It was “just fury.”
“I am really remorseful,” she said. “I see the guy all the time, but we don’t talk. He took $650 of my money and promised me a place to live.” When he didn’t come through on his promise, she spat on him.
X drew a suspended sentence with 18 months probation. Sentencing had been delayed by about month to update a Gladue report — a specialized pre-sentence report for indigenous people — that was too thin on details.
The revised report said X, who identifies as O, endured a violent, neglected and impoverished childhood. Her grandparents once had to pay her babysitter $500 to take her home after she’d been left there by her mother.
At a residential school, she recalled being “locked up by nuns” and found a way to escape: she got pregnant to get out.
Addictions to opiates and crystal meth, fuelled by petty crime and prostitution, were key to her existence. She quit the sex trade after being diagnosed with HIV.
“She’s working hard to leave that life,” Barnes said.
X is trying to stay off drugs and is meeting with a traditional elder for guidance. She also has a community support worker.
Putting her in custody for the assault would undo all the gains she’s made, Barnes argued.
Assistant Crown attorney Charles Yih said the assault was “a terrible incident” involving a man trying to help her.
LeRoy said though she saw the spitting as “a serious and significant offence,” she wasn’t convinced “it’s more serious than other assaults that we see where someone is physically injured.”
The victim suffered no serious injury or resulting illness. And X was sorry.
LeRoy noted X’s “very difficult upbringing” and her residential school experiences.
She reminded X that violating the terms of her suspended sentence could land her in jail. She ordered X to stay away from the victim and to seek counselling for substance abuse and mental health issues, recommending they be delivered “in a culturally appropriate way.”