Thursday 18 December 2014

Demand for law review as sex attacker Lyons returns to jail

Tim Healy, Conor Feehan and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30

THE Court of Criminal Appeal has urged politicians to review laws that allow judges to issue compensation orders to sex offenders.

The appeal comes after the immediate return to jail of sex attacker Anthony Lyons.

The aviation boss, who subjected a young woman to a "wanton and violent" sexual assault four years ago as she walked home from a night out with family and friends, will serve at least 14 months.

Speaking after Lyons was sent back to prison for 18 months following a court decision that his initial time behind bars was too lenient, the young woman told her family she was relieved that the lengthy appeal to decide her attacker's fate was at an end and now wants to move on with her life.

"It has been a long and drawn-out process that has been a stress for everyone but we are still glad the DPP took the decision to appeal the initial sentence that saw Lyons serve just four-and-a-half months in prison," a source close to the family said.

The source said that people around the area of London where Lyons has largely lived since his release should be informed that he is now in jail for the frightening attack.

"They need to know who is living near them if he goes back there after his release," they said. "They need to know what he has done and that he showed no remorse.

"We are still waiting for the day when he shows some remorse," they explained.

Two years ago Lyons served six months of a six-year sentence after a trial judge suspended five-and-a-half years.

He was also ordered to pay €75,000 compensation to his victim as part of his sentence, leading to a huge public outcry.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed on the grounds of undue leniency and yesterday Lyons was returned to jail to serve an 18-month term.

Suspended

The Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA), led by former Chief Justice John Murray, said the correct sentence was six years with four suspended.

Taking into account the six already served, he has another 18 months to serve, most likely 14 months with remission for good behaviour.

In its 29-page ruling, the CCA urged reform of a 21-year-old law which allows judges to issue statutory compensation orders instead of – or in addition to – dealing with a serious offender in any other way.

The three-judge court said that Oireachtas had decided, when it introduced section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, that the amount of compensation should be related to the means of the convicted person.

But Judge Murray said there can never be any question of the law being applied in a way that suggests "there is one law for the rich and one for the poor, in the sense that a rich offender may buy himself or herself out of prison, or get some similar advantage".

The court said that the option of a statutory coupling of a compensation order by reference to an accused's means could at least be said to be unsatisfactory and warrant review by the legislature as it "risks giving rise to the misconception that in such serious cases an accused could escape the appropriate sentence simply by the payment of compensation".

The CCA said that, in principle where serious offences are concerned, it should be made only in addition to the appropriate sentence – including imprisonment – that meets the gravity of the case.

Last night the family of the victim, who separately received €200,000 from Lyons after a civil claim was settled, said they believed his crime was at the higher end of the scale and warranted a sentence of up to 10 years.

The family, who have petitioned Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to introduce tougher laws for violent criminals, said that the appeal process had brought "severe stress and heartache" to them.

"At no stage has Anthony Lyons shown any remorse for his violent and vicious attack on our daughter," they said.

In its ruling, the CCA said the trial judge, Desmond Hogan, acknowledged the seriousness and gravity of the offence and addressed a range of mitigating factors before sentence was imposed.

The DPP had argued undue leniency because Judge Hogan attached undue weight to those factors, one of which was the compensation order of €75,000 for the victim in accordance with the statutory scheme.

In the CCA's view, where the trial judge erred was in attaching undue weight to the "totality of the mitigating factors".

On that basis, the original sentence was quashed and in considering afresh the sentence to be imposed, the CCA had regard to the seriousness of the offence, the impact on the victim, the relevant mitigating factors before the trial court and any further factors which had arisen since then.

The CCA was told the victim had received a substantial sum in settlement of a separate civil action against Lyons but it (CCA) did not consider this is a relevant mitigating factor.

The totality of hardship included time already served in prison, the fact that he must remain a registered sex offender for 10 years and that he had suffered permanent damage to his business and livelihood.

It also included that he had been forced to live abroad because of the "exceptional form of sensational attack on his reputation in certain quarters of the media".

His family had to endure journalists at their home, questioning relatives and neighbours, photographing through windows as well a photographing his children on holidays.

However, the CCA said, the "prime responsibility" for negative consequences and opprobrium lay with Anthony Lyons.

Irish Independent

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