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Man who challenged gay blood ban 'was paid for sex'

A challenge to the ban on gay men from donating blood is being heard in court

A MAN who challenged the ban on gay blood donations in the north could not donate even if the bar was lifted because he was paid for sex, senior judges heard yesterday.

Attorney General John Larkin QC argued that the man would be barred because he was paid for sex and had not refrained from having sex with men for 12 months.

Mr Larkin questioned the man's legal standing in the case as he opened an appeal against a ruling that former Health Minister Edwin Poots did not have the power to keep the lifetime ban.

A High Court judge had held that Mr Poots's decision was irrational and "infected" with apparent bias.

The former minister was also held to have breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Executive.

Since 2011 gay men in Britain can give blood provided they have not had sex with another man for more than a year.

But Mr Poots maintained the ban in Northern Ireland, citing public safety.

A gay man, known only as JR65, successfully challenged the ban.

But the verdict against Mr Poots was then challenged by the subsequent health minister, the DUP's Simon Hamilton.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Gillen and Weir, are examining whether authority for blood policy is a devolved matter.

The hearing at the Court of Appeal in Belfast had been put on hold pending the outcome of a European Court of Justice case.

In April the European Court ruled that a lifetime ban may be justified in member states, but only if there are no effective detection techniques.

At the start of a four-day hearing yesterday Mr Larkin, representing the health minister, claimed JR65 lacked the necessary legal standing to seek a judicial review in the first place.

"This is a young man who has no interest in the outcome of these proceedings - he has accepted money for sex," he said.

JR65's ineligibility for donations was compounded by him failing to meet the rule of no sexual contact with other men for more than 12 months, the court heard.

"Even in England he wouldn't have been able to give blood," Mr Larkin said.

David Scoffield QC, for JR65, rejected the contention that his client has nothing at stake.

"He's a gay man who did give blood before and did intend to do so again," he said.

At one stage Lord Justice Gillen questioned whether JR65 being paid for sex "knocks him out" of the case.

Mr Scoffield confirmed his client did once receive cash but stressed he was never a sex worker.

"Maintenance of the ban, he says, is demeaning, distressing, frustrating and part of... the marginalising message given to members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community," he said.

The hearing continues.

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