This was mentioned in comments under Criminal transmission of COVID-19? Knowingly exposing vulnerable individuals however, my question involves UK law and a more direct, intentional act that could not be confused with negligence or accident.
It is a specific circumstance, known to have already happened - one example I managed to find from The Guardian. There was a more recent case but I have failed to track it down.

If someone spits &/or coughs at you intentionally, knowing they are infected, is this attempted murder?
Of course, the chances of you actually dying are quite small, but they are not zero.

To take a rather over-dramatic parallel - if I were to load a revolver with a single bullet, spin the cylinder, aim it at your head and pull the trigger, would that be attempted murder? The odds are considerably shorter, but the outcome is the same - you live or die by that single act.

  • I would say not because positive COVID-19 is not a death sentence. Some don't even get a fever. Nor is it a sickness for life.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 12:43
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    I guess transmission of HIV would be reasonable precedent. Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 12:44
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    @PeteB. One chamber in six is not a death sentence either, it's merely the possibility of one. That is precisely why I included the parallel. (reposted to fix my "I'm a Brit & don't know what they call the bits of a gun" error ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 13:10
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    @PeteB. “Nor is it a sickness for life.“ Some people get permanent damage to their lungs, heart, or other organs. Please don’t spread misinformation.
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 2:10
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    There has been someone in the US (won't be more specific than this, however) that has just done the same thing. The person has even admitted to doing it and why... now we're waiting to see what, if anything, will happen to the person. (When I say we, I mean it in a very local way, this is not national, or even regional news ... yet)
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


It would depend on your intent, among other things

If the prosecution stand a reasonable chance of proving you intended to kill that person by infecting them with coronavirus, they may choose to charge you with attempted murder. Obviously, it would be highly fact-specific.

In the alternative (and the far more likely prospect) they could charge you with assault occasioning actual bodily harm contrary to s47 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 (OAPA) or inflicting grievous bodily harm contrary to s20 OAPA.

The exact alternative charge would depend on the effects suffered by the victim and whether it could be proven that you were responsible. If so, and the infection was particularly severe, it could be an s20 offence (GBH). If not, it would probably be an s47 offence (ABH).

Of course, if the person caught it and died, and the causation test was passed, etc. then you'd be looking at a murder charge. The same with attempted murder if they didn't die but the causation test was proven and your intent was also proven.

However, realistically the most likely charge is ABH or GBH.

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