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Judge rules Sault man put women at risk by not disclosing HIV status

He met two of the women on a dating website. The third he was introduced to by family
The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo. Michael Purvis/SooToday

A judge has found a local man, who didn't disclose his HIV-positive status to three sexual partners, guilty of aggravated sexual assault.

Superior Court Justice Edward Gareau convicted Nicholas Goodchild of three counts of the offence, following a seven-day trial that took place in June and July.

The case involved a trio of women who had sexual relations with Goodchild between July 2013 and April 2014.

It centred around the issue of the "significant risk of bodily harm" and whether there was a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV virus, he said in a decision released Nov. 15.

One of the complainants tested positive for HIV in October 2014. The early diagnosis enabled effective treatment, the court heard.

In an agreed statement of facts, Gareau was told Goodchild went to the Sault Area Hospital with possible pneumonia on Oct. 10, 2013, where blood work, including a HIV screen, was ordered.

Ten days later, he returned to the hospital for the test results and was informed he was HIV positive.

Gareau said it was an undisputed fact that the accused had knowledge of his status as of Oct. 20, 2013.

As well, as early as Jan. 14, 2010, Goodchild had been contacted by Algoma Public Health and was told he had been named as a contact for a non-confirmed case of HIV.

He was advised by a nurse that he should be tested for HIV, that he should disclose his status to any sexual partner and should use a condom for oral sex and vaginal and anal intercourse.

Following his HIV positive diagnosis in October 2013, he met with another health unit representative, who outlined the importance of not putting anyone at risk.

Goodchild was advised to either abstain from sexual relations or to use a condom during all sexual acts.

He also was told of the importance of disclosing his status to all partners and he indicated he understood, Gareau heard at the trial.

The accused was referred to Sudbury for treatment, which he started in April 2014.

Two of the complainants met Goodchild through a dating website while the third was introduced to him by one of his family members.

A publication ban prohibits reporting any information that would identify the complainants.

Neither the women nor Goodchild intended or wanted their relationships to be long term or a "boyfriend/girlfriend" dating relationship, the court was told.

The sole purpose of the encounters was to have sexual relations.

Two of the women testified that their encounters with Goodchild included vaginal intercourse with a condom and oral sex without such protection.

The third told the court they had vaginal and oral sex without a condom.

Gareau noted that she had been adamant that Goodchild didn't use a condom during intercourse, but admitted during cross-examination that "there are certain things I don't remember."

"The lack of clarity causes the court some concern" with respect to whether or not a condom was used, he said.

"Not using a condom during vaginal sexual intercourse was not part of Mr. Goodchild's modus operandi," Gareau said.

The judge decided that considering all the evidence, the inconsistencies in the woman's statements and her stark admission about her memory,  that in deciding the legal issues in this case, he was finding that Goodchild used a condom when he had intercourse with her.

After reviewing the testimony he heard during the trial, Gareau concluded, based on the totality of the evidence, that Goodchild was HIV positive, knew that when he had sex with the women and didn't disclose it to them

The judge said he also was satisfied that the women would not have engaged in sexual intercourse with Goodchild if they had known his HIV positive status.

Goodchild used a condom during each of his acts of sexual intercourse, Gareau said.

But the accused didn't start medication and treatment until May 2014, at the earliest, which was after his sexual encounters with the women.

"Since there is not the combined effect of a low viral load and condom use at the time" when Goodchild had intercourse with the women "there exists, in law, a realistic possibility of HIV transmission" during the occurrences, Gareau concluded.

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