Anthony Lyons returned to jail after sentence increased

Court told trial judge had ‘erred in principle’ and put undue weight on mitigating factors

A file image of Anthony Lyons of Griffith Ave, Dublin leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

A file image of Anthony Lyons of Griffith Ave, Dublin leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 12:11

Businessman Anthony Lyons has been returned to jail after his prison sentence for sexual assault was increased by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The judges quashed his previous Circuit Court sentence of six years with 5 1/2 years suspended because it was “unduly lenient”.

Today the three-judge court changed his sentence to six years with four years suspended, taking account of time spent in prison, with immediate effect. This extends his custodial sentence by 18 months to 24 months. Taking into account remission and time already served he is likely to spend the next 14 months in prison.

Court of Criminal Appeal Judgment

Mr Justice John Murray noted that the jail sentence is four times that effectively imposed by the trial judge.

The decision followed an appeal to the court by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Lyons (53), of Griffith Avenue, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attacking and sexually assaulting the woman, then 27, in the early hours of October 3rd, 2010.

The trial judge had “erred in principle” by placing undue weight on mitigating factors, Mr Justice Murray said.

The Court of Criminal Appeal did not consider the compensation paid to the victim to be a relevant mitigating factor in this particular case, Mr Justice Murray said.

Lyons had been ordered by trail judge Desmond Hogan in 2012 to pay €75,000 to the victim. However it emerged last month that he had agreed to pay almost €200,000 in compensation to the victim.

Because of the seriousness of the offence, the sentence must be considered “unduly lenient”, the judge said.

The written judgment by the Court of Criminal Appeal said the case “manifestly warranted a more significant custodial sentence” than the one of 6 months imposed by the trial judge ”notwithstanding the mitigating factors he was entitled to take into account”.

The new sentence took into account the seriousness of the offence of sexual assault, the impact on the victim and relevant mitigating factors, the judge said.

Reasons for the changed sentence related to the “nature and gravity” of the offence, the judge said.

The Court of Criminal Appeal’s written judgment said it would be a “long time” before the victim “ever feels she can walk to her home along a public street at night, if ever”.

These kind of offences “inculcate in women a sense of apprehension or even fear when walking quiet or lonely places on their own”, it said. This was “one of the reasons why in such cases a sentence, or a totality of punishment, involving a significant custodial element, is important for the purpose of deterrent”, it said.

The deterrent was not only for Lyons, who in this case was “unlikely to offend again but a deterrent to others tempted to commit similar crimes” they said. “It would send out the wrong message to society if the custodial element and the totality of punishment did not reflect that”.

The judge noted that the publicity surrounding the offence was “sustained and extensive” and had a terrible impact on his wife, children and parents.

Lyons “bore responsibility for bringing about this situation by committing the offence but the sustained vilification of a person who had committed this offence was exceptional in this case as was its impact,” the judgment noted.

It “could be said” Lyons had paid a “heavy price for the offence” (not relating to compensation paid) but this was “brought about essentially by his own wrongdoing,”, the judgment said.

Lyons was present in the court, dressed in a dark suit and wine-coloured tie. He bowed his head and looked towards the ground after the sentence was read out.

There were three judges sitting on the court of criminal appeal, Mr Justice Murray, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and Mr Justice Daniel Herbert.

During the trial in 2012, the court heard the27-year-old victim was walking home after a night out with her family on October 3rd 2010 when she was approached from behind by Lyons who “rugby-tackled” her to the ground on a dark stretch of road.

The court was told Lyons attempted to take the victim’s mobile phone, and attempted to stop her calling out by putting his hand over her mouth and around her neck.

The victim said she was groped and digitally penetrated during the attack until a passerby came to her aid.

Gardaí were alerted and Lyons was arrested nearby.

He initially denied the offence but months later gave a statement to gardaí admitting the attack but claiming he was overcome with an “irresistible urge” brought on by cholesterol medication. Lyons was sentenced in 2012 to six years with five 1/2 years suspended and was released from prison in December 2012.