A leading sexual health charity has said that the application of the criminal law in HIV transmission cases is poorly understood by some police officers.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s report Policing Transmission examines how police across England have handled allegations of HIV transmission.

It is based on police records of actual cases that were investigated between 2004 and 2007.

Staff from Asociation of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan Police Service compiled reports from notes of cases identified by THT and other HIV support organisations.

ACPO and the Met worked with THT and a Community Advisory Panel to draw lessons and make recommendations.

The panel produced the recommendations and oversaw the writing of the review.

It found that both HIV and the use of the criminal law in relation to its transmission were often poorly understood.

This in turn led to disparities in the application of the law and a lack of common practice in the manner in which allegations were investigated.

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“Currently, many allegations – probably hundreds – are investigated but the vast majority rightly never end up in court.

“Increasingly, inappropriate cases are pursued for months or even years, only to be dropped because police are unfamiliar with guidelines for prosecution or the complexities of HIV transmission.

“We believe that investigations need to be fair and consistent, based on fact rather than fears and conducted in a manner that minimises distress to all parties involved and reduces the current high levels of wasted police resources.”

The report is aimed primarily at police forces but also includes observations for community groups and clinicians who encounter allegations and investigations.

Click here to read the Policing Transmission report.