18 January 2016

Gambia: Briton Convicted in HIV Transmission Case

A British national has been convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of not less than D500, 000 by Magistrate Momodou SM Jallow of the Banjul Magistrates' Court following his plea of guilt in an alleged two-count charge of negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life last Wednesday.

Paul Robert Fuller was convicted and sentenced on count one, to pay not less than D250, 000 in default to serve one year imprisonment for having unprotected sex with one woman sometime in the month of September 2015 in Bijilo and diverse places. The charge alleged that Paul knew well or had reasons to believe that he would likely infect the victim with HIV thereby committed a crime.

On count two, he is equally convicted and sentenced to pay not less than D250, 000 for a similar crime on another between the months of February 2015 and September 2015 in Bijilo and diverse places. Both charges contravene Section 170 of the Criminal Code Cap 10 Volume ІІІ of the revised laws of The Gambia.

When the case was called in the Wednesday judgement before the accused person took his plea, the Police Prosecutor Lamin Jarju announced his representation of the Inspector General of Police and filed in a new amendment to the charges to replace the previous ones on the accused person. He said the amendment of the charges was in pursuance to Section 169 of the Criminal Procedure Code and appealed for the court to grant the application. His application was granted by the presiding magistrate.

Giving the facts of the case before the presiding magistrate handed down his judgement, the Police prosecutor Lamin Jurju told the court that the convict is living with HIV/AIDS and he frequently visits The Gambia. He said during Fuller's stay in The Gambia, he got married to a Gambian lady who is now living in the UK. He said the couple had a child and later divorced.

The prosecutor further narrated that in one of the convict's visits in The Gambia during February 2015, he met one woman and slept with her several times. "Later around September on another visit in The Gambia, the convict met another woman and slept with her," he said.

According to Jarju, the convict never informed the woman that he is an HIV infected person before they slept, saying this led to his (the convict's) arrest. "Looking at the circumstances, the convict is already a threat to health and national security because HIV is a deadly disease," the prosecutor said, adding that since the convict continues to have sexual affairs with Gambian ladies "we are not safe," urging the court to impose a fine and a deportation order on him.

The convict accepted the facts as presented by the prosecution leading to the presiding magistrate's levying of the sentences on him on both charges.

In his plea of mitigation, the convict's defence counsel, Lawyer Kebba Sanyang appealed to the court not to hand down a custodial sentence on his client, saying he is a first time offender who, he said had not been in conflict with the law as contrary to the prosecution's earlier submission during bail application.

He begged the court to consider that the convict has lived with the disease for 32 years and during that period; he had responsibly conducted himself by adhering to the required treatment.

Counsel Sanyang also told the court that Fuller had three children with two British nationals and a Gambian (Martina Mendy) during the period of his living with the disease. "By virtue of his treatment, all the ladies and their children are HIV free," Counsel Sanyang said.

He argued that the offence charged under the HIV/AIDS prevention Act is a felony, which is categorised under misdemeanour. He said the charges that were levied against his client were misdemeanours, further quoting Section 170 of the Criminal Code to back his facts. "There is no evidence before the court that the convict has transmitted HIV and the amendment of the charges is a testimony to that," he insisted.

He however appealed to the court to temper justice with mercy by imposing a fine and not a custodial sentence on his client. He pleaded for the court to consider that the convict had not wasted the court's time, saying "imposing a custodial sentence on him amounts to signing his death warrant."

Upon counsel Sanyang's submission, the presiding magistrate Jallow raised the question of whether the complainants were infected with the disease but the police Prosecutor Jarju responded that they were both tested at the Serrekunda Hospital and the results were negative.

The presiding magistrate in his judgement sentenced Paul to pay a fine of D250, 000 on count one in default to serve one-year imprisonment. He also handed down the same sentence on the convict on count two and ruled that both sentences will run concurrently.

He ordered for the deportation of the convict upon settlement of the sentence fines and ordered for him to be remanded in custody pending his deportation.

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