National papers fail in bid to end Argus HIV blackout

By Jon Slattery

The national media failed this week in its bid to challenge an order
preventing Newsquest’s South Wales Argus from naming a woman who
infected the father of one of her children with HIV.

An application on behalf of the national press and broadcasters was
made by The Times to the president of the Family Division for the
matter to be re-opened, but it was turned down.

The woman has
been sentenced to two years in youth custody for causing her lover
grievous bodily harm by infecting him with the virus.

The
injunction, made during care proceedings, banned her identification on
the grounds that her children needed to be protected. Newsquest had
already failed in a bid to have it lifted (Press Gazette, 29 July).

The
media has become increasingly concerned at the way orders made in the
family courts are restricting the open reporting of criminal cases.

Gillian
Phillips, head of litigation at The Times, said: “The national media
are concerned about cases where the Family Division is making orders
that impact on their open reporting of criminal trials. They are
disappointed that they cannot challenge this particular order but they
are keeping the situation closely under review.”

Gerry Keighley,
editor of the South Wales Argus, told Press Gazette: “We’ve suffered
around here with family court interference. It is something that social
services seem to have latched onto.

“The thing that worries me is
not just that kids in care get special treatment, because councils have
massive resources to fund any court action they want, but that it also
allows social services not to have some of their involvement held up to
public scrutiny.

“It has to be decided whether open court means
open court whether the defendant has children or not, irrespective of
whether they are in care.”

The convicted woman

NO EVIDENCE OF INTENT

Reports have claimed that the woman had ‘deliberately’ or
‘knowingly’ infected her partner. But the Chief Crown Prosecutor
for CPS Gwent, Madhu Rai, said there was no evidence of intent.

“The recent prosecution of a woman for infecting her partner with
the HIV virus was brought by the CPS under Section 20 of the Offences
Against the Person Act 1861,” she said. “The offence prohibits the
unlawful infliction of grievous bodily harm and does not involve any
intent on the part of the offender to bring about this result. This
case has been widely reported and comment has generally involved the
use of the word ‘knowingly’ when describing the actions of the
defendant regarding how the virus was transmitted.

“The court was
told by the prosecution that there was no evidence that the defendant
acted with such intent or knowledge and the Section 20 charge brought
by the CPS duly reflected this.”

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