Trial of soldier accused of sexual assault told about side effect of drug

Behaviour was ‘compelling’ example of reaction associated with anti-malaria treatment

Military court hears Irish and British forces are the only armies still dispensing Lariam

Military court hears Irish and British forces are the only armies still dispensing Lariam

Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 01:00

The behaviour of a soldier accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague, was a “compelling” example of the side effects associated with the anti-malaria drug Lariam, a military court has been told.

The army private, who may not be named at the direction of trial judge Col Michael Campion, is accused of sexually assaulting the colleague while on a 24-hour tour of duty.

The accused has previously told the court he recalled nothing of the incident itself, but remembered standing in his underwear near the woman’s bed when the light came on, and she was shouting that he had touched her bottom.

A British medical specialist in tropical medicine, infectious diseases and public health, Dr Ashley Croft, told the court the defendant’s forgetfulness was “entirely consistent with what the manufacturers say about their own drug”.

Dr Croft said he had interviewed the accused and examined his medical history and was satisfied the soldier’s apparent out-of-character behaviour and symptoms of depression and forgetfulness were consistent with a growing body of experience in relation to the drug.

Implications

Dr Croft said there could be psychotic and “serious long-term” implications for those who had a bad reaction to Lariam and noted that the soldier had said he had been given Lariam on at least two trips overseas.

On the most recent of these before the alleged assault, the accused had also been given another anti-malaria drug, Dr Croft said. These drugs should not have been taken at the same time, he told the court.

The doctor also said the accused should have been given advice about taking alcohol before the tour of duty when his medication started, and for some time after the tour as his medication continued. But, he said, the the accused was not told this and was drinking heavily before and after the tour of duty.

Dr Croft told defence counsel Gareth Humphreys the Irish and British armies were the only two, to his knowledge, which still dispensed Lariam.

He took issue with the written report of a prosecution expert medical witness, Dr Ronald H Behrens, who claimed there were no long-term effects of Lariam and therefore the drug could not have been a contributory factor in the alleged assault.

The court agreed to adjourn cross-examination of Dr Croft until Monday morning.