Man handed life sentence over "deliberate campaign" to infect victims with HIV

Darryl Rowe is the first person to be sentenced in England for deliberately infecting HIV

Man handed life sentence over "deliberate campaign" to infect victims with HIV

Daryll Rowe arrives at Lewes Crown Court in Lewes, East Sussex, 08-11-2017. Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images

A "predatory" hairdresser with HIV who embarked on a "deliberate campaign" to infect men he met on a gay dating app has been given a life sentence.

Daryll Rowe was sentenced to a minimum jail term of 10 years and 253 days at Brighton Crown Court, having been found guilty of five grievous bodily harm with intent charges, and another five of attempting to do so.

He is the first person to be sentenced for infecting HIV in England.

The court heard how the 27-year-old committed his "grotesque" crimes in Brighton between October 2015 and January 2016, having been there because of its large gay population.

Tampered condoms

He had been diagnosed with HIV in April 2015, but refused treatment and medication.

He would tell his victims - who he met on Grindr - that he was free of the virus, and then attempt to use tampered condoms during sex in a bid to infect them.

One victim told the court on Wednesday that his encounters with Rowe - who would goad the men with abusive text messages after meeting them - had left him contemplating suicide.

"I think about committing suicide all the time," said the man, who is now HIV-positive.

"I don't feel I can trust anyone.

"Daryll has destroyed my life. I would rather he had murdered me than left me to live my life like this."

Another, who also tested positive for HIV, said: "How did this happen? My parents died of AIDS and I did everything to prevent contracting HIV. I tried to take my life with my HIV medication."

Warning

Rowe had sex with eight different men in Brighton before being arrested by Sussex Police after two HIV patients at a sexual health clinic provided similar descriptions of the person they had sex with.

It led the force and health officials to publish a warning urging gay men who had sex with "a man in his 20s with a Scottish accent" to get tested.

Rowe - said to have been motivated by "anger" and a need to "control" - was subsequently arrested again but was re-bailed twice until November, during which time he went on the run and targeted another two men in the North East. 

Denials

Rowe - branded "grotesque" and a "sociopath" by his victims - repeatedly lied to the authorities during the investigation into his crimes, and continued to deny them in court last year, claiming that he was cured of HIV and that he had not used sabotaged condoms.

Judge Christine Henson told him the jury had "seen through your lies" as she labelled him a "controlling and manipulative" individual, who she said posed a "high serious risk of harm to gay men."

She said: "With the full knowledge of the risk you posed to others and the legal implications of engaging in risky sexual practices, you embarked on a deliberate campaign to infect other men with the HIV virus."

His defence lawyer, Felicity Quarry, asked her not to pass a sentence that would add to the "social stigma" of HIV, describing Rowe as a "vulnerable young man" who "needed therapy."

But noting his "concerted effort to continue to offend when on bail," Judge Henson said: "Given the facts of this case and your permissive predatory behaviour I cannot see when you would no longer be a danger to gay men."

"Deplorable"

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, described his crimes as "deplorable."

"People living with HIV should not be avoided, feared or discriminated against, even when it comes to sex and dating," she said.

"Well over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, and the vast majority of them cannot pass on the virus to others due to effective medication - this is something most people don't realise, unfortunately.

"The Rowe case is the first of its kind in the UK, and is an exceptionally rare thing to encounter.

"To intentionally transmit HIV is a deplorable crime one could only commit by avoiding one's own crucial treatment. Our thoughts are with the victims in this case."

Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme, from Sussex Police, added: "It's really important to say that the fact it is a life sentence is in no way wanting to stigmatise people who are living with HIV, and in no way reflective of anyone other than Daryll Rowe's personal actions in this."