By Elesha George
Individuals risk being charged with a capital offence when they abscond quarantine or isolation, or knowingly expose other people to Covid-19.
Failure to comply with any regulations and guidelines under the Quarantine Act can result in a fine of up to $25,000 or six months’ imprisonment or both.
However, Superintendent Lesborn Michael, the officer in charge of Division A police stations in St John’s and its environs, told the nation on Tuesday that these people can also be charged with murder.
He said persons who know for a fact they have the virus and deliberately or maliciously transmit it to any other person would have committed an offence. He further explained that if someone dies due to the exposure and it is proven that it was done through malice means “that person can be charged with murder”.
Outside of Antigua, there are cases where persons have been charged and prosecuted for attempted murder for knowingly infecting someone with an infectious disease, for example, someone who knows they have HIV but engages in unprotected sex without telling their partner.
However, the likelihood of being prosecuted for such an offence is slim to none in Antigua and Barbuda.
In fact, Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony Armstrong, told Observer that “it’s very rare”, and that there has never been a case on record when that has happened.
Given the developing nature of Covid-19 and the little information known about the virus, successfully convicting someone will be a tad complicated.
Firstly, the prosecutor would have to determine at what point the deceased became infected, in which case they would have to rule out every other person that came into contact with the victim. They would also have to present evidence that the accused intentionally infected his or her victim.
“You’d first have to show that the person intentionally caused the death of the person and, in this instance, it would be by way of Covid, so that raises a next issue as to whether or not Covid did cause the person’s death.”
The state prosecutor said there has to be clear evidence that one person intended to cause the death of another by spreading Covid, and even then, death from pre-existing conditions like non-communicable diseases (NCDs) would have to be ruled out.
“Whether or not a person did die with Covid, you have to face the reality as to whether or not that is the significant cause of death,” Armstrong cited, stressing that it would be a very difficult case to win.