A hairdresser has been sentenced to life in prison for deliberately infecting men with HIV after meeting them on Grindr.
Daryll Rowe, 27, had requested a more lenient punishment, claiming the disease was no longer terminal and that those diagnosed had “good and high life expectancy”.
His lawyers asked the judge to pass a sentence that would not add to the “social stigma” of HIV, but inform the public the virus is not what it was in the 1990s.
On Wednesday afternoon at Brighton Crown Court, Judge Christine Henson QC disagreed, and made history by sentencing Rowe to life with a minimum term of 12 years.
He is the first person in the UK to be convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to HIV.
Victims told how they had considered suicide and Rowe’s first target, who was diagnosed with HIV in January 2016, said: “Daryll has destroyed my life. I would rather he had murdered me than left me to live my life like this.”
Another, whose parents died of Aids when he was a child, said he “did everything” to prevent himself catching the virus.
Rowe’s six-week trial heard he embarked on a cynical and deliberate campaign to infect men with the disease, refusing treatment and ignoring advice from doctors.
He insisted on having unprotected sex with men, claiming he was “clean”. When they refused, he covertly tampered with condoms by either tearing them or cutting off the end, tricking his victims into thinking they were having safe sex.
In the following days Rowe would send a series of shocking and abusive messages to taunt them and tell them he had infected them with the life-changing virus.
In a text message to one victim he wrote: “Maybe you have the fever… I have HIV. Whoops.” In another he wrote he wrote: “I ripped the condom. I got you.”
Rowe showed no emotion as prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC read out statements from nine of his 10 victims, which she said showed the “devastating consequences” of his actions.
“This disease is something I never took lightly,” said one of his victims whose life had already been changed by the disease after it claimed his parents.
“I did everything to prevent the virus from ever catching me.
“I educated myself on safe sex and always used a condom but on November 13 2015, Daryll Rowe decided to take that right away from me.
“A part of me died that day when I was diagnosed.
“The old me is no longer. The new me is constantly sad, thinking about how my life changed.
“I have been devastated by Rowe’s actions but I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Felicity Gerry QC, defending, had highlighted comparable cases from around the world, urging the judge to pass a sentence that would not add to the “social stigma” of HIV, but inform the public the virus is not what it was in the 1990s.
“He was a vulnerable young man in a community where the disclosure of one’s HIV status remains unusual, in the context of how he was meeting people,” she said.
“This is not a terminal illness. Those who live with HIV have good and high life expectancies.”
She added: “There really is a need for therapy and not incarceration.”
During his trial Rowe claimed he thought he had managed to cure himself of HIV by embarking on a series of alternative therapies – including drinking his own urine and taking supplements such as oregano oil, olive leaf extract and black seed oil.
Rowe, wearing a grey suit and open-collared white shirt, was sentenced for five charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and five of attempting to do so.
Judge Christine Henson QC, sentencing, referred to his crimes as a “determined hateful campaign of sly violence”.
“You are the first individual to be sentenced for Section 18 offences in the context of infecting others with HIV,” 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.
“Unfortunately for five of the men you met your campaign was successful.”
The judge added: “They describe living with a life sentence as a result of your cruel and senseless acts. Many of those men were young men in their 20s at the time they had the misfortune to meet you.
“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.
“In my judgment the offences, taken together, are so serious, that a life sentence is justified.
“You will potentially remain a danger to others for the rest of your life.”
Sussex Police came under fire over claims they put gay men in danger when they released Rowe on bail, after which he continued his campaign.
Northumbria Police have been accused of wrongfully arresting and detaining one of his unsuspecting victims as he came to terms with his boyfriend’s crimes.
Rowe’s final victim blamed police for putting him at risk and said more could have been done sooner to stop Rowe’s offending.
It was 18 days after his arrest that Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council urged gay men to get tested for HIV if they had been sexually involved with “a man in his 20s with a Scottish accent”.
Police appealed for anyone with information or potential victims to come forward but refused to publish his name and photo.
He was later identified by a newspaper, prompting widespread media reports.
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