SINGAPORE – A 41-year-old HIV-positive man who bit a Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer during a raid had his jail term reduced from 20 months to 14 months on Friday, after his lawyers submitted new medical evidence for his appeal.
The reports from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) said there was no risk of transmission from his bite in the precise circumstances of this case, as his viral load was suppressed.
The reports said transmission of HIV by human bites is negligible, and that for HIV to be transmitted by human bites, the biter should have an uncontrolled viral load, the saliva of the biter should be bloody, and the bitten individual should have a deep wound from the assault.
On Friday, High Court Justice Hoo Sheau Peng said that in the light of the new medical evidence, the lower court was wrong to conclude that the man’s HIV status meant that his act of biting carried a very significant degree of harm.
But Justice Hoo said the sentence should reflect the potential harm arising from his conduct.
She noted that the man knew he was HIV-positive, but did not know his viral load or whether he was bleeding from the mouth at the time of the assault.
In reducing his jail term to 14 months, she said that apart from the need to protect law enforcement officers, such a sentence was appropriate to send a message of deterrence to those with infectious diseases.
The man had faced three charges of causing hurt to public servants.
In the early hours of April 3, 2020, CNB officers arrived at the man’s condominium and knocked on his door, but he refused to let them in. When the officers eventually forced their way in, he resisted arrest, slamming a door against one officer, pulling the hair of another, and biting a third.
The man contested the three assault charges, contending that he did not hear the officers identify themselves, nor did he see their passes.
He was convicted of all three charges by a district judge in 2022. He was sentenced to 15 months’ jail for biting one officer, two months’ jail for slamming the door against another officer and three months’ jail for pulling the hair of the third officer and slamming her to the floor.
He appealed against his conviction and sentence, and his new lawyers, Mr Josephus Tan and Mr Cory Wong, filed a criminal motion to submit a report from his doctor at the NCID, Dr Choy Chiaw Yee, regarding the risk of transmission.
After a second report by Dr Choy, the prosecution adjusted its sentencing position downwards.
Deputy Public Prosecutor David Menon agreed that the man’s sentence for the biting charge should be reduced, and sought a global sentence of 15 to 17 months.
The defence, on the other hand, asked for between eight and 10 months.
The man’s appeal against conviction was dismissed.
Justice Hoo said an ordinary person in the man’s shoes would have known that the people outside his door were law enforcement officers.