News Courts

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Sex assault conviction 'caused businessman serious hardship'

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 30/05/2014 | 02:30

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Businessman Anthony Lyons leaves court yesterday. Lyons was jailed for sexual assault in 2012. Photo: Collins
Businessman Anthony Lyons leaves court yesterday. Lyons was jailed for sexual assault in 2012. Photo: Collins

YOUNG women "should be able to walk the streets of Dublin", the former Chief Justice has said, describing a sexual assault committed by high-profile businessman Anthony Lyons as "the ultimate serious attack on human dignity".

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Mr Justice John Murray made his remarks during the re-hearing of an appeal, against a six month jail term imposed on the aviation broker who moved to the UK after he was released from prison.

In its submissions to the court, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) contended that the trial judge who suspended the vast bulk of a six year jail sentence handed down to Lyons "in effect lost sight" of the gravity of the offence and placed "undue weight" on the compensation aspect of the case.

But Mr Lyons' defence claimed that he had suffered "hardship" as a result of his conviction and had been forced to leave the country.

Judge Murray, leading the three judge Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA), heard that Mr Lyons was "followed" on at least one occasion, asked to leave a golf club and his family have been subject to "harassment" following his release from prison.

The CCA has now reserved its judgment to a later date and it will most likely be handed down before July.

Judge Murray said that the DPP, which had moved the undue leniency application, had not brought aggravated sexual assault charges against Mr Lyons.

But he added that the offence committed against Lyons' then 27-year old victim was "the ultimate serious attack on human dignity".

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New information, outlining the "totality of hardship" experienced by Mr Lyons, was revealed during the fresh appeal.

The businessman, who was released from prison in December 2012, now lives in the UK and "has been prevented from working in this country" because of adverse publicity, the three judge court heard.

Lyons, who was in court for the hearing, will be subject to lifetime supervision by the British police because of his sexual assault conviction.

The CCA, led by Mr Justice John Murray, also heard that there has been "a significant effect" on his business.

A large folder of media coverage was presented to the CCA and three entries were highlighted by Mr Lyons' legal representatives who advanced a "totality of hardship" argument during the appeal.

"He joins a group of very notorious, very serious criminal offenders with no distinction," said Senior Counsel Patrick Gageby, representing Mr Lyons.

"My client can never be forgotten, he will always be notorious," added Mr Gageby.

Lyons, who ran Santon Dumont, an aircraft leasing company, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting the 27-year-old victim.

He was sentenced to six years with five and a half years suspended and was ordered by Judge Hogan to pay his victim €75,000 in compensation.

Lyons admitted the attack on Dublin's Griffith Avenue – where he lived at the time – but claimed he was overcome with an "irresistible urge" due to the combination of alcohol, medicine and cough syrup.

Mr Gageby said he could not complain about the large level of publicity, as that was a consequence of the conviction.

But he said he was complaining about the effect on Mr Lyons which included his ability to move and to associate with his family, particularly his children.

"It has prevented him from working in this country," said Mr Gageby, who said that Mr Lyons had been subjected to forms of unwanted attention by media and people who were not members of the media.

There "appeared to be harassment" of Mr Lyons family and his children.

"Such harassment is not a usual consequence of conviction," said Mr Gageby.

"Their family doesn't suffer in the way my client's family have," added the lawyer.

Senior Counsel Caroline Biggs, representing the DPP, said the decision by trial Judge Desmond Hogan to suspend five and a half years did not reflect, in any way, the gravity of the sexual assault committed by Mr Lyons.

But this claim was challenged by Mr Gageby who said the sentence was not unduly lenient and had not been disposed of by way of a compensation order.

"This [sexual assault] was a unique piece of criminal activity in his 51st year by a man who otherwise, and prior to that, was of completely good character," said Mr Gageby.

Mr Gageby said that the consequences of the conviction, including the period of suspension and being on the sexual offenders register is "very large for someone like Mr Lyons".

But Judge Murray intervened to remark that young women should be able to walk the streets of Dublin, adding "the clang of the prison gates" cannot be used as an excuse not to put someone in jail.

Irish Independent

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