Ireland: Court agrees ‘HIV’ spit was provocation to kill

Brendan O’Connor, 25, who killed 50 year-old father of four Edward Clancy, “by stamping on his head with his full body weight” did so because he spat at him and he thought the man was HIV-positive.

His plea of manslaughter was accepted by Ireland’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) “on the grounds that the spitting… constituted provocation.”

The case, an egregious example of institutionalised HIV stigma reported in today’s Irish Times, has got me spitting mad!

Deirdre Murphy, prosecuting, said the men exchanged words outside a pub in the town in the early hours of that day. Mr Clancy spat at O’Connor before crossing the road and moving away.

Det Sgt Fergal Patwell quoted from witness statements that O’Connor caught up with Mr Clancy and grabbed him.

“Brendan O’Connor began punching Edward Joseph Clancy, knocked him to the ground and stamped on his head,” he said. He said there was no evidence that Mr Clancy resisted.

Ms Murphy said a postmortem found the base of Mr Clancy’s skull was completely fractured and there was extensive bruising to his head and face.

She said the pathologist described it as a targeted attack to the head, and Mr Clancy was pronounced dead at Tralee hospital within an hour.

Det Sgt Patwell also told the court:

it was widely believed Mr Clancy had HIV and that gardaí [police] took precautions when dealing with him. “It appears there was no fact to it,” he added.

O’Connor’s lawyer said that:

his client deeply regretted the killing and expressed genuine remorse. He said HIV could be transmitted by spitting. “In my submission, the provocation was sufficient to cause this particularly violent reaction,” he said.

Until we remove the widespread ignorance about how HIV is transmitted (and it is NOT transmitted via spit or saliva) and the institutionalised HIV stigma across the entire criminal justice system, people actually living with HIV don’t have a chance in hell of justice in court.