UK: New Guidance for Police Investigating Criminal Transmission of HIV

I’m reproducing below a press release issued yesterday by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) about the new UK (with the exception of Scotland) guidance for police officers investigating allegations of criminal HIV transmission. We’ll hear more about the guidance – a world’s first – and how it was developed, at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna which begins on Sunday.

Police and HIV sector work together to produce guidance

New guidance has been produced to help police when investigating allegations of criminal transmission of HIV. The guidance provides police officers with basic facts about HIV and sets out advice on how to deal with complaints about reckless (or intentional) transmission of HIV in a fair and sensitive manner.

The new guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was developed by a working group which included police officers, representatives of the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Policing Improvement Agency, and the National AIDS Trust. Police across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be expected to follow new guidance.

Ellie O’Connor, Detective Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Police, comments;

“Investigations into the criminal transmission of HIV are extremely rare but we know they cause a lot of anxiety for the individuals involved. It is important police officers have an understanding HIV and what to do should someone make a complaint.

In producing this guidance we listened to the concerns of the HIV sector and worked in partnership with them. We strongly encourage all police forces to disseminate this guidance and ensure officers know to access it when a case occurs.”

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT, comments;

“Criminal investigations into HIV transmission worry many people with HIV, even though they occur only very occasionally. We are pleased that we have been able to work together with the police to produce guidance for their officers. The Association of Chief Police Officers took the issue very seriously.

The resulting guidance sets out a fair way to deal with these investigations that keeps in mind the particular sensitivities of HIV. This new guidance should serve to reduce the number of police investigations and reassure people living with HIV of what they can expect in the unlikely circumstance this occurs.”

For further information about this issue NAT and THT have produced a leaflet for people living with HIV – Prosecutions for HIV Transmission: A guide for people living with HIV in England and Wales.

Under the new guidance for police investigating criminal transmission of HIV, people living with HIV can expect:

  • to be treated supportively.
  • for their confidentially to be respected.
  • an investigation of reckless transmission only to be pursued if a complainant has been infected with HIV
  • for the case to be continually discussed with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure only legitimate complaints are pursued.
  • contact with any other individuals relevant to the case to be initiated by trained staff at GUM clinics.
  • and uninterrupted access to medication in the event of being taken into custody.

If someone reports to police concerned that they have been exposed to HIV in the past 72 hours they will be referred to an open sexual health clinic or the nearest hospital Accident and Emergency Department to ask for PEP.

For a background study of early police investigations of alleged cases of HIV transmission see Policing Transmission by Terrence Higgins Trust.