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Pharmacist struck off after death threat convictions

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Pharmacist struck off after death threat convictions

A pharmacist has been struck off from the GPhC register after admitting to recreational cocaine use and receiving 18 convictions for offences including harassment and making death threats. 

The regulator’s fitness to practise committee held a hearing over January 29-February 2 during which it was established that Richard Andrew Lyness had received 18 convictions for actions that took place between August 2020 and September 2022.

These comprised: seven convictions for ‘persistently’ using an electronic communications network “for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another”; seven for pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to harassment; two for contravening non-molestation orders; and two for making threats to kill two separate individuals.

Mr Lyness pleaded guilty to these actions in three separate trials between June 2021 and June 2023 in courts in Belfast, Laganside and Newtonards. On June 9 last year, he was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

He targeted several individuals with his actions, which included sending text messages containing threatening statements like “I’ll bury you, your animals are going to be burned,” and “Your a dead man walking be careful I’ve a bounty on you”. 

The FtP committee also found that during his offending behaviour he had “made sectarian comments on numerous occasions” involving the use of the word ‘Fenian’ as an ethnic slur, such as telling someone: “[If] I ever bump into your fenian kids I’ll castrate them.”

In addition to his convictions, it was established that Mr Lyness consumed cocaine on several occasions between August 2020 an August 2022. He admitted to taking cocaine “on occasion socially during the last few years” although he stressed that he was “not dependent” and has “sought support to get to complete and continued abstinence”.

Accounting for his criminal convictions, Mr Lyness supplied a written statement that expressed his sincere wish to continue serving his local patients and said: “I am very ashamed and extremely remorseful of my actions and regret how I behaved. Since then I independently sought help and completed a series of CBT sessions.” He has also completed a course on healthy relationships as part of his probation.

Assessing the case, the FtP committee noted that the events in question involved Mr Lyness’s private life rather than his professional practice. However, it concluded that he “should have had a heightened awareness of the extent to which his taking of illicit drugs might undermine confidence in the pharmacy profession” and that his cocaine use therefore represented a “serious falling short” of the standards expected of him.

With regard to his criminal convictions, the FtP committee noted that although Mr Lyness “has demonstrated some insight into his failings” he had not shown that if he were to encounter stressful situations in future he would not repeat the offending behaviour.

Concluding that a suspension order “would inadequately reflect the grave seriousness of the registrant’s offending behaviour,” it decided to remove his name from the GPhC register.

Mr Lyness absented himself from the FtP proceedings on the morning of his hearing, citing health concerns and the stress he has been under in recent years. He also explained that while he was able to secure barrister representation for separate proceedings with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, he was unable to afford representation for his regulatory hearing in Great Britain.

The PSNI case was due to be heard in 2022 but was adjourned in October that year. In addition to Mr Lyness’s criminal convictions, the Northern Ireland regulator will also consider allegations that in 2018, while he was on duty as the responsible pharmacist at a branch of Cohens Chemist in Stockton-On-Tees, he slept in the dispensary while a dispensary assistant handed a patient their buprenorphine prescription and supervised their consumption of the medicine in the shop area.

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