06/06/2012 03:15 EDT | Updated 08/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Judge To Decide Fate Of Hep-C Needle Stabber

A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge is pondering the length of the prison term for a man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend with a hepatitis-C-contaminated bloody syringe, in a case with no apparent direct legal precedent.

Lawyers for both sides have widely divergent views on the appropriate sentence for the crime.

Last January, Darrell Phelan went to see his ex-girlfriend at her house. As she stepped outside to meet him, he stabbed her with a syringe filled with his own blood. Phelan has hepatitis-C — a disease he intended to pass on to his ex.

Phelan was subsequently convicted of the crime.

In making sentencing recommendations, lawyers went back two decades, to the closest similar case they could find.

Some 20 years ago, Raymond Mercer of Upper Island Cove knowingly infected two women with HIV. Cases like Mercer’s resulted in sentences in the range of five years.

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland argued that Phelan’s intent in the syringe attack called for an even tougher punishment. The Crown asked for a term of eight years imprisonment.

But defence lawyer Stephen Orr said similar cases involving HIV have dropped to as little as 12 months in more recent times, as the disease becomes more and more treatable.

Orr pointed out that Phelan’s plan to pass on hepatitis-C failed, and no lasting damage was done.

He suggested a sentence in the range of one to two years.

Justice Wayne Dymond told the court he wanted to take his time making his decision.

The matter is due back in court June 29.