New Zealand: Charges dropped in criminal HIV transmission case

All charges against a Wellington man accused of not disclosing his HIV-positive status prior to unprotected sex with his female partner who subsequently tested HIV-positive have been dropped because police are unable to trace the complainant.

Not only did Justice Simon France drop the charges of “wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm” but also ordered that the man’s name be suppressed.

Jo Murdoch, a lawyer from the Public Defence Service, successfully argued in court that the man’s identifying particulars should be suppressed.

Justice Simon France said the issue became whether the man’s HIV status – a particularly private and sensitive medical fact – should be exposed when grave doubts had been raised about the alleged victim’s credibility.

The case did not have the public interest element of a person accused of having put multiple partners at risk or having risky casual sex. Also, the alleged crime was irrelevant to his employment and his contact with the public generally. Taken together the circumstances outweighed the usual principle that justice should be carried out publicly, Justice France said.

Details of the case are sketchy and come from a single story in today’s Dominion Post via

(Pdf of webpage here if link no longer works.)

Police said he did not tell his partner he had HIV, the couple had unprotected sex and she contracted the disease. The man said his partner of several years knew of his condition and that they always had protected sex.

Shortly before the trial was due, information came to light which, if true, would have affected a court’s view of her honesty. Police were unable to find her and thought she was hiding from them. They had wanted to check the information before expensive tests to see if the couple had the same strain of HIV.

The Crown offered no evidence against the man, resulting in a discharge which amounted to an acquittal.