The policy has been drawn up in consultation with the Public Health Sector and other interested groups, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, HIV Scotland and the National AIDS Trust. COPFS has benefitted substantially from their input and expertise.
COPFS is one of the few prosecution services worldwide who have proactively published their prosecution guidance on this issue.
The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said: “This policy sets out clear guidance to prosecutors on cases where there is an allegation of sexual transmission of, or exposure to, infections which have serious, and potentially life-threatening consequences for the person infected.
“In preparing this policy, we have consulted closely with the public health sector alongside health charities and interest groups.
“We are publishing this guidance because we recognise that it is important to provide clarity and consistency on this area of the law. We also recognise the devastating effect that such diseases can have, and we will prosecute where it is in the public interest to do so, taking into account the rights of both victim and accused as well as any public health concerns.”
Catherine Murphy, Head of Public Affairs for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Crown Office has a duty to prosecute criminal behaviour, but it also has a responsibility to ensure that the law is fair and fit for purpose. We hope this policy will provide greater clarity on a complex and highly sensitive issue.
“For good public health reasons people with HIV must be able to seek advice on sexual health issues without fear of being reported to the police. Nor should they be subjected to unjustified investigations because the law is vulnerable to misinterpretation by police and the courts.
“We are pleased that the Crown Office has recognised these concerns and has taken action to provide greater detail. We hope that the policy will be supported by the wider justice system.”
Yusef Azad, Director of Policy and Campaigns for the National AIDS Trust, said: “It is eleven years since the first criminal prosecution for HIV transmission in Scotland – so this Guidance is much needed and very welcome. People have a right to know what the law expects and requires.
“The Crown Office should be congratulated on their openness to advice from community organisations and medical experts in drafting this Guidance, which we hope will mean evidence is accurately and carefully weighed around transmission or exposure to risk. We trust also that the Guidance will have an immediate impact on police investigations, ensuring no one is investigated without good reason.”
George Valiotis, Chief Executive for HIV Scotland, said: “We welcome the Crown Office policy which provides clear guidance on how to deal with cases of HIV transmission in the judicial system.
“Treatments in HIV not only increase the life expectancy of those living with the virus they can also significantly reduce the risk of transmission by suppressing the virus in the bloodstream.”
The Policy is published on the website, and is accessible via the following link: http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/Sexual-Transmission-or-Exposure-Infection-Prosecution-Policy