Prosecutions in the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom take place under existing general assault laws.
These are similar for England and Wales (one legal jurisdiction) and for Northern Ireland, where reckless HIV/STI transmission or intentional HIV/STI exposure or transmission can be prosecuted under grievous bodily harm laws. Although these laws can apply to any serious sexually transmitted infection, and there have been cases related to hepatitis B, herpes and gonorrhoea, the vast majority of criminal cases have been HIV-related.
In 2008, following intense lobbying from the HIV sector, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for England and Wales produced detailed guidance for prosecutors on the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of infection which has since been updated several times. The latest version can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/intentional-or-reckless-sexual-transmission-infection.
Scotland applies its own assault law – the common law offence of culpable and reckless conduct – to either reckless HIV exposure or transmission. There has also a been a prosecution for hepatitis C transmission in a case where HIV was also transmitted. The Scottish Crown Office and Procurator produced its prosecution policy on the sexual transmission of infection in 2012, updated in 2014.
The first UK prosecutions for alleged sexual HIV transmission took place in Scotland in 2001, in England in 2003, and in Wales in 2005. Northern Ireland has not prosecuted any cases of sexual HIV transmission, and its only known HIV case, in 2016, related to ‘exposure’ by biting.
More information is available on the following states
Leading HIV policy organisation with links to many resources on HIV criminalisation across the four countries of the United Kingdom.
Information for indidividuals living with HIV about the law across the four countries of the United Kingdom.