Belfast Telegraph

Man in gay blood ban case was paid for sex, court told

By Alan Erwin

A man at the centre of a court battle over the ban on blood donations from gay men in Northern Ireland was paid for sex, senior judges have heard.

Attorney General John Larkin QC argued that the man taking the case would be barred from giving blood anyway because of the cash transaction and a further failure to comply with a 12-month celibacy rule.

Arguing that the man has no personal interest in the case, Mr Larkin questioned his legal standing in the case.

The Attorney General was opening an appeal against a ruling that former Health Minister Edwin Poots did not have power to retain a complete ban on using blood donations from gay men. A High Court judge has previously ruled that Mr Poots' decision was irrational and "infected" with apparent bias.

The former minister was also held to have breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive, and seemingly been influenced by his Christian beliefs in maintaining the lifetime ban.

The bar on gay men giving blood, put in place during the 1980s Aids threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

New rules allow blood from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.

But Mr Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

The findings against him were made in a legal action taken by a homosexual man granted anonymity in the case and referred to only as JR65. Challenges to the verdict have been continued by Mr Poots' DUP ministerial successors, and UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Gillen and Weir, are examining issues about whether authority for blood policy is a devolved matter. The hearing at the Court of Appeal in Belfast had been put on hold pending the outcome of a European Court of Justice case.

In April it ruled that a lifetime ban may be justified in member states, but only if there are no effective detection techniques.

A key issue in the JR65 appeal centres on a requirement to carry out a so-called proportionality assessment. But at the start of a four-day hearing Mr Larkin, representing the Health Minister, claimed JR65 lacked the necessary legal standing to seek a judicial review in the first place.

"This is a young man who has no interest in the outcome of these proceedings - he has accepted money for sex," the Attorney General contended.

JR65's ineligibility for donations was compounded by him failing to meet the rule of no sexual contact with other men for more than a 12-month period.

"Even in England he wouldn't have been able to give blood," Mr Larkin insisted. "The only relevant interest, and even then it's a stretch, that the original applicant may be said to have is in ascertaining who has jurisdiction."

David Scoffield QC, for JR65, rejected the contention that his client has nothing at stake.

He countered: "He's a gay man who did give blood before and did intend to do so again."

Lord Justice Gillen questioned whether JR65 being paid for sex "knocks him out" of the case.

Mr Scoffield confirmed his client did once receive cash, acknowledging that was why he was denied victim status under human rights legislation.

But stressing that the man was never a commercial sex worker, he contended that the deferral criteria has had a damaging impact."Leaving aside the issue of whether this man will ever give blood, he has come forward and he has a proper interest."

The hearing continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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