Skip navigation

Law Revision: Criminal Case of the Month

R v Golding [2014] EWCA Crim 889, Court of Appeal

Facts: In July 2009, David Golding began a relationship with Cara Scott, also known as Cara Lee, which quickly became sexual. By September 2009, he had infected her with an incurable genital herpes virus. (The virus causes the infected person to break out in red blisters in the genital area, which can be painful. Other symptoms include discomfort, itching, and flu-like symptoms such as headaches and fever. The virus can spread to other areas of the body, such as the face and hands, and can also increase the risk of spreading or contracting HIV. Around 10% of the UK population – 6 million people – have the virus).

Scott confronted Golding about it. Initially, he denied responsibility, and suggested that she may have been infected by a previous partner (the virus can lie dormant for some time). However, in March 2010 DG admitted to Cara that he had caught the virus from a previous partner, at which point she moved out of their shared home in Daventry and contacted the police. DG’s doctor's records reported recurring genital herpes and referral to a special clinic several times from 2007 until late 2009. In a police interview, DG admitted that he had infected Cara and that he should have informed her of his condition. He was charged with, and convicted of, inflicting GBH.

Following sentencing, the Crown produced an expert report from a medical virologist, which speculated whether herpes could be described as "really serious” bodily harm so as to come within s.20, and whether it could be proved that DG had infected Cara without evidence of contemporary laboratory tests. DG appealed, contending inter alia that (1) the medical evidence was insufficient to show that the virus amounted to “really serious” bodily harm; (2) there was insufficient evidence to show DG had infected Cara recklessly, or indeed at all.

Held: Appeal dismissed. (1) The evidence of Cara's painful symptoms and their effect and recurrence without effective cure indefinitely was sufficient for a jury to consider that it was “really serious” bodily harm. The serious harm did not have to be either permanent or dangerous. (2) There was sufficient evidence of infection from the coincidence of Cara’s outbreak with the start of her relationship with DG, her absence of previous history, and DG’s previous history. His lies and admissions were also relevant. A jury could properly infer recklessness from DG’s admissions of suffering from the virus and his acknowledgement that he should have told Cara before starting a sexual relationship with her. A person suffering from a sexual disease who had sexual intercourse with a partner, not intending deliberately to infect her, but knowing that she was unaware of his condition, could be guilty of recklessly inflicting GBH, following R v Dica. There was no necessity for an assault to have been committed before there could be an infliction of GBH, following R v Ireland. The decision as to the constituent elements of a s.20 charge were matters for a jury to consider and, if a defendant entered an informed and voluntary plea of guilty, they were to be taken to acknowledge that the necessary elements of the offence had been established.

Latest News and Features

Back to top