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Persons who wilfully pass on HIV infection can be charged – Prosecutor

Persons who wilfully pass on HIV infection can be charged – Prosecutor
Karim Nelson, Crown Counsel at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)

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HIV-positive persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) who wilfully pass on an HIV infection to another person can be charged with grievous bodily harm with intent under the laws of this country.

Crown Counsel at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Karim Nelson made this clear to SEARCHLIGHT on Monday.

Nelson was responding to a question raised by a report that Steve Alphonso Ralph, a 41-year-old man who was jailed in Canada after he knowingly passed on HIV to his lovers, had been deported to SVG, the land of his birth.

Persons who wilfully pass on HIV infection can be charged - Prosecutor
Steve Alphonso Ralph was deported to SVG

Ralph arrived in SVG last Thursday February 7. He is originally from the East St George area and goes by the alias “Shorty”.

The Crown Counsel told SEARCHLIGHT there have been instances, in England particularly, where persons have been charged with grievously bodily harm with intent for doing what Ralph did.

“We have the same provision and we could apply that particular provision to deal with the situation,” the lawyer explained, while noting that this has never been done in SVG.

He explained that for a charge to be laid, a report will have to be made and the police must have evidence that the person who passed HIV to the other person actually knew that they had the health issue.

“The information can come from a third party because persons might know. For example, if there are persons whom this person confided in and say well ‘I have this disease’, that could be sufficient evidence to say this person knew they had this disease and they still went ahead and had unprotected sexual intercourse with another person.

“That to me will establish the person had intent to cause the grievous bodily harm,” Crown Counsel Nelson explained.

He however noted that without that third-party declaration, obtaining personal medical documents to use as evidence could present some difficulty.

“You can’t just move on the individual. There must be some sort of evidence that he committed a crime and in the absence of a person reporting the matter, you cannot be aware that a crime was actually committed,” the prosecutor added.

Meanwhile Ralph’s crimes are generating discussion on local airwaves and on social media.

According to an article published on Monday March 10, 2014 in the Toronto Sun, Ralph concealed his HIV-positive status from four sex partners and was found guilty of several crimes, including forcibly confining and assaulting his last victim.

The article noted that Justice Nancy Spies found Ralph, 37 at the time, guilty of committing aggravated sexual assault by endangering the life of his last victim, between November 1, 2010 and New Year’s Day 2011 when he assaulted and held her captive for a few hours at his north Toronto home.

The Sun reported, “When police arrested Ralph, a small-time pot dealer who lives on government assistance or disability, he admitted his HIV-positive status. When officers broke the grim news to the woman, she was so upset she became violently ill. Her worst fears were confirmed when she tested positive for HIV.

“Besides the last victim, Ralph was also guilty of aggravated sexual assault against another woman between March 1, 2008 and August 5, 2010. This victim, like Ralph’s last victim, also tested positive for HIV.”

In court, Ralph denied hiding he was HIV positive, and claimed the two women consented to having unprotected sex with him while knowing of his condition. His version was rejected.

The Vincentian national also pleaded guilty to endangering two other women’s lives in 2009 and from January 1, 2003 to January 1, 2005. He admitted he had sex without revealing his condition to them. They tested negative for HIV.

Ralph knew of his HIV status since May 2003 and despite repeated warnings by public health officials to disclose his condition to sex partners, he did not.

The SUN said when Ralph was arrested in January 2011, police issued a public alert and Toronto public health authorities found the two other victims.

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