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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Inquiry into HIV court blunder
Aids virus
The witness did not know he had HIV
A blunder has resulted in a witness learning he had HIV during questioning in a packed Leicester courtroom.

The man did not know lawyers had ordered a sample of his blood be tested for HIV, and only became aware he had the virus when a lawyer told him.

He was being cross-examined by a defence barrister who assumed the witness knew of his condition.

The trial judge has ordered an inquiry and banned reporting the name of the witness or details of the case.

When asked about having HIV, the witness vehemently denied any knowledge of having the virus.

To find out you have a life-threatening disease and didn't even know you were being tested is appalling
Terrence Higgins Trust

He was then told a sample of his blood had tested positive earlier this year.

The Crown Prosecution Service had told police to give a sample of the innocent man's blood to a defendant's counsel.

The lawyers then commissioned an HIV test.

The sample had been given to police for DNA testing in September following the witness's arrest on suspicion of an offence, for which he was later released without charge.

In court, the judge said the sample should have been destroyed.

'Absolutely wrong'

The judge demanded an inquiry and that the man undergo immediate counselling.

Janet Meeks, head of the CPS trials unit in Leicester, said: "The most important duty of the CPS is to ensure there's full and proper disclosure of evidence to the defence.

"It is regrettable that, in fulfilling that duty, this information came into the public domain and caused distress to this witness."

The blunder was condemned by HIV and Aids charities.

A spokeswoman from the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK said the error goes against all rights of confidentiality: "To be tested for HIV without your consent is absolutely wrong.

"To find out you have a life-threatening disease and didn't even know you were being tested is appalling."

The condemnation was echoed by the international charity for HIV and Aids, Avert.

Spokeswoman Annabel Kanabus: "You should not be tested without consent - what an appalling thing to have happened.

"There are some things that people get tested for without their knowledge... but for the last 20 years since testing for Aids became available, it has always been considered special."

The mistake took place earlier this month but it could only be reported on Monday at the end of the case.



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