Medication defence for sex assault rejected


A SUCCESSFUL businessman has been convicted of sexual assault after a jury rejected his claim that his cholesterol medication made him do it.

Anthony Lyons (51), an aviation broker of Griffith Avenue in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the sexual assault of the 27-year-old woman in the early hours of October 3rd, 2010.

Lyons was head of aviation company Santos Dumont before stepping aside after being charged. He admitted the attack but claimed he was overcome with an “irresistible urge” due to the combination of alcohol, the cholesterol medicine Rosuvastatin and cough syrup.

The sentence hearing began immediately after the jury’s verdict, but Lyons will not have his punishment finalised until the end of July as Judge Desmond Hogan said he wanted time to read the victim impact report. He also ordered a probation report be prepared on Lyons before remanding him on continuing bail and registering him as a sex offender.

Gardaí requested that he surrender his passport, but the judge said this was not necessary.

The eight-day trial heard extensive expert evidence on the potential effects of the cholesterol drug. The jury took just over three hours to reject the defence claim that the medicine caused Lyons to lose control and attack the woman.

The victim was walking along a north Dublin Street when Lyons came up behind her and put his arm around her before asking whether she would be okay getting home. He then rugby tackled her to the ground.

“As he was trying to push me into a dark area where the wooded area is, I hit him over the head with my phone as hard as I could,” she said. “I was screaming ‘No, no, no’ and ‘Help’ and everything I could think of.” The woman said she was face down on the ground while Lyons was groping and fondling her from behind. She said his full weight was on her and she could not move. “I said at one point I was pregnant and asked him to stop,” she said.

The woman said while Lyons was struggling to remove her underwear, she phoned gardaí and told them she was being raped. She said she was fondled and digitally penetrated during the attack until a passerby came to her aid, causing Lyons to flee.

Lyons was arrested nearby. He initially completely denied the offence and was released on bail. Several months later he handed a statement to gardaí admitting the attack but claiming he was overcome with an “irresistible urge” brought on by the cholesterol medication he had started taking the day before. Because of his admissions, most of the trial focused on whether the drug Rosuvastatin was to blame for Lyons’s actions.

A medical expert for the prosecution told the jury there was no evidence cholesterol medication could cause increased aggression and that even if it did, Lyons was not taking it long enough for it to have such an effect.

Prof Alice Stanton, a specialist in clinical pharmacology, said clinical trials of Rosuvastatin provided no evidence it caused increased irritability, aggression or violence.

An expert witness for the defence pointed to several instances of patients on such medications becoming aggressive. He said the speed at which they can affect the human brain cannot be known for certain as the drugs had only been tested on rats’ brains. Dr Malcolm Vandenburg told defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC of case studies listing several patients on similar medication who showed highly aggressive behaviour.

Lyons’s wife of 22 years, Eileen, gave character evidence for her husband. She said the attack was “beyond all understanding” and that her husband had “never lifted a hand” to her or anyone else.

Prosecuting counsel Kerida Naidoo asked Ms Lyons: “Isn’t it the reality that you just can’t admit your husband is guilty of this crime?”

“That’s not the reality, my husband is a kind and gentle man,” she responded.

During the sentence hearing Mr Gageby presented a doctor’s report stating the cough syrup mixed with the alcohol could have affected Lyons’s actions. He said this was not an excuse, but perhaps an explanation.

He handed in a “very large bundle of references” offering “unstinting support” for Lyons. Counsel said Lyons was willing to pay compensation to the victim, but it was not appropriate to offer this before sentence was passed.

Mr Gageby asked Judge Hogan to take into account the publicity the trial has received and its effect on Lyons’s family.