A gay man who absconded to France after being convicted for recklessly infecting his former boyfriend with HIV was arrested when he returned to the UK for cancer treatment.

Mark James, 50, was on the run from police for three-and-a-half years after becoming the first gay man in the UK to be accused of “recklessly” passing on the virus.

Hounslow police arrested him in a hospital bed in Brighton last Wednesday, where he had gone to receive treatment for an aggressive form of lymphoma.

James, who lived with the victim in Brentford, was sentenced last Friday at Isleworth Crown Court to four years and two months behind bars.

He had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm before he fled the country.

Judge Jonathan Lowen said: “During the three-and-a-half years while you roamed out and about, you represented a substantial risk of serious harm to members of the public were you again minded to commit the shocking crime to which I sentenced you in your absence on August 4th, 2006.

“The victim of your offence has suffered a great deal of extra anxiety and stress, and I have been told it has affected his health, all while you enjoyed your undeserved freedom.”

The court heard that James spent nearly all the time he was at large in Narbonne, south-west France.

James, who lived in Park Road, Burgess Hill, before his conviction, was diagnosed with lymphoma in December last year.

He received two courses of chemotherapy in France, and contacted the British Embassy and Foreign Commonwealth Office before flying to Gatwick on January 18th.

Daniel Robinson, defending, said: “He made no secret of his status to the immigration authorities on my instructions, and was allowed through immigration control because, I’m told, his treatment was viewed as a priority.

“He suffers from the cancer in an obvious way, he has a large tumour to the right hand side of his neck which has caused some facial paralysis.”

Detective Inspector Mike Sunman, who led the investigation, said: “It is obviously quite sad to see the condition he is in, but it was appropriate that the sentence be served.”