Ottawa police review disclosure policy

Ottawa police are reviewing their disclosure policy after they released a photo of a man who was allegedly spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

Ottawa police are reviewing their disclosure policy after they released a photo of a man who was allegedly spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

Members of the gay and lesbian community say the picture should never have been made public.

In May, Steven Paul Boone was charged initially with nine counts of aggravated sexual assault. Police later laid additional charges including five other counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of sexual assault and four counts of breach of probation. The initial charges were laid after another man alleged in April that he contracted an infectious disease after sexual contact with Boone in late January and early February.

Police said they took the extraordinary measure of releasing Boone's picture to the news media to ensure all his sexual partners were informed and got medical care.

Police didn't disclose the nature of Boone's disease, including whether it was HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Critics, including journalist Noreen Fagan of the gay and lesbian newspaper Xtra!, said this should never have happened.

"It was right there in the paper with his medical status," she said. "There was zero privacy respected at all."

On Thursday, police met with members of the gay and lesbian community to discuss ways to handle similar situations. Recommendations from the meeting included a review of the police's media policy and better communications with Ottawa Public Health.

In Boone's case, police said they had many discussions with various groups before releasing his photo.

Public safety remains paramount, police said.

"If we believe the public is at risk, we need to make sure that information is out there to the appropriate people," Insp. Joan McKenna said.

Brent Bauer of Ottawa Gay Men's Initiative said he understands the safety concerns but said the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is a health issue not a criminal one.

"They can work through the community and through public health to tell all past partners of this individual or other individuals."

An Ottawa police committee will review the recommendations and said any policy changes that result would be implemented by the end of the year.