On Wednesday, a 39 year-old HIV-positive woman from Orleans in north-central France was found guilty of the French crime of “administration de substance nuisible par conjoint ou concubin ayant entraîné une infirmité permanente” (administering a harmful substance to one’s spouse or common law husband/wife with the consequence of lifelong impairment) for not disclosing her HIV status to her ex-husband, who subsequently was also diagnosed HIV-positive.
The three day trial is notable for several reasons. Although the first criminal HIV transmission conviction took place in France in 1996, and there have been around 15 convictions since, this is the first to have been tried in the Assize Court (Cour d’assises) which is only for people accused of committing the most serious of crimes, such as murder and rape.
CG faced up to 15 years in prison, and the prosecution requested between six and eight, but the judge was surprisingly lenient, due to her lack of good health, and she was given a five year suspended sentence.
The case has received much press coverage in France, but has not yet been picked up any English language papers. I was alerted to the case by a reader in France.
A previous hearing had raised doubts about proving the timing and direction of infection but this appears to have been ignored by the latest trial. It would be interesting to know what ‘proof’ the prosecution provided, other than her diagnosis in 1991 and his in 1997, that she had transmitted HIV to him. Without robust evidence, there may be grounds for appeal, but perhaps, given that the sentence is suspended, and Ms G poor health, there is little point in extending a battle that has raged in the courts for six years. It’s all so terribly sad.