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Vic: Man jailed for trying to spread HIV

By Melissa Iaria
16 Jan 2009 6:19 PM

MELBOURNE, Jan 16 AAP - An HIV positive Melbourne man who tried to infect people with the virus has been sentenced to 18 years jail in what police believe is a world first conviction.

Michael Neal, 50, had unprotected sex without telling his partners he had HIV and arranged "conversion parties" to infect people, the Victorian County Court heard.

Sentencing Neal to a minimum of 13 years and nine months, Judge David Parsons said he showed no remorse for his terrible crimes, which continued until his arrest, despite repeated warnings from the Department of Human Services (DHS) about his behaviour.

"You sought to be your own version of the grim reaper," Judge Parsons said.

The grandfather, from Coburg, showed no reaction as his sentence was announced.

Neal was found guilty by a jury in July last year on 15 counts, including two of rape and eight of trying to infect another person with HIV.

Police said it was the first prosecution of its type in Victoria and possibly the world where a serious offender set out to deliberately infect people on such a scale.

"I haven't been made aware of a similar investigation of this nature, of this extent anywhere in the world," former head of the sexual crimes unit, Detective Inspector Anthony Cecchin, told reporters outside court.

The jury in his two-month trial heard Neal ignored warnings by DHS authorities to practise safe sex and tell partners of his status after being diagnosed in 2000.

He also defied their later restrictions barring him from gay sex venues and having unprotected sex.

His case led to the downfall of Victoria's chief health officer Dr Robert Hall after the Victorian government said it should have been told about Neal sooner.

Neal met his victims mainly at gay venues, on gay websites or at gay beats, the court heard.

One of his victims became so besotted with him he registered himself as a rottweiler with his local council in homage to him.

Neal told another of his victims, who had seen a report saying 100 Victorians were diagnosed with HIV, he was "responsible for most of that".

He also wore a genital piercing to make it easier for him to infect people and told one of his 13 victims he "gets off" on doing so.

The court heard Neal had an antisocial personality disorder and directed his rage at innocent victims after suffering severe childhood abuse and neglect.

He had told a psychiatrist he had a dark side and enjoyed infecting people.

Judge Parsons said Neal had little chance of rehabilitation and his sentence had to send a message such behaviour would not be tolerated.

Neal, who was registered as a sex offender, had pleaded not guilty to 34 charges

A jury cleared him on 11 counts, including two of causing people to be infected.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to another 46 counts relating to drug use and possession, child pornography and committing indecent acts in front of children aged under 16.