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Pharmacist struck off after death threats, harassment and cocaine use

Northern Ireland pharmacist Richard Lyness was removed from the GPhC’s register after being convicted on 18 charges over three court cases between 2021 and 2023, the regulator has revealed.

A pharmacist with numerous convictions - including harassment and sending sectarian death threats, as well as admitted and repeated cocaine use - has been removed from the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) register.

Richard Andrew Lyness, GPhC registration number 2063816, was convicted of 18 offences at three different Northern Ireland courts between 2021 and 2023, the GPhC’s fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee was told at a hearing held between January 29 and February 2.

He is also suspended by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), where he is registered under PSNI registration number 4306.

Mr Lyness did not attend the hearing, claiming that he was “unfit to attend” because of a health condition but failing to produce evidence of his illness, according to the hearing document.

Read more: ‘Dishonesty is state of mind’: Pharmacist struck off over unpaid train tickets

He nevertheless provided written submissions, telling the committee in an email that he was “an excellent, caring pharmacist” and wanted an opportunity “to keep my career and keep moving forward”, it said.

The committee acknowledged that Mr Lyness had “taken some positive steps to address his behaviour”, including by “trying to stop his cocaine use”, and that he “intends to continue seeking professional support”.

But it stressed that he had “demonstrated limited insight into his criminal behaviour” - which was “deliberate and repeated on several occasions over a three-year period“ - and its impact on the reputation of the profession.

 

“You’re a dead man walking”

 

The FtP committee was presented with examples of the death threats sent by Mr Lyness, some of which were sectarian in nature and included explicit language, the document said.

One text message threatened to “castrate” the recipient’s children, while another said he would “slit [the] throat” of the recipient as well as another person they had “brought into our family”.

“You’re a fat waste of space. How dare you speak down to me. You’re a dead man walking - be careful, I’ve a bounty on you”, it said.

 

Criminal convictions

 

In January and March 2021, Mr Lyness pleaded guilty at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to a schedule of 11 charges, according to the FtP hearing document.

In June 2021 at Laganside Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded guilty to a schedule of two further charges and in May 2023 at Newtonards’ Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded guilty to a schedule of five charges, it said.

The offences for which Mr Lyness pleaded guilty and was convicted included:

  • Six counts of harassment against “Person A” between August 2020 and April 2021, and one count of harassment against “Person D” in September 2022
  • Two counts of issuing a threat to kill, once to “Person B” and once to “Person C”, made in August 2022
  • Six counts of “persistently” using “a public electronic communications network” to annoy, inconvenience, or cause needless anxiety, between 2020 and 2022
  • Three counts of contravening a non-molestation order between November and December 2020

Read more: “Appalling callous woman”: Pharmacy worker jailed for poisoning partner

The committee also saw emails in which Mr Lyness mentioned using cocaine and he submitted an admission to the committee saying that he had “used cocaine on occasion socially during the last few years”, the document said.

On June 9 2023, Mr Lyness was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years – meaning he remains subject to the suspended sentence until June 8 2025, it added.

The committee also noted that he has a “further criminal matter outstanding”, with Mr Lyness’s written submission setting out that he also had “one case deferred for a year that will be another two-year suspended sentence”. 

 

“Regulatory history”

 

Meanwhile, the committee also heard that Mr Lyness had previously been issued a PSNI warning following a conviction for “harassment without violence” and a subsequent finding of impaired fitness to practise in 2009.

And it heard that he had a long “regulatory history” with the PSNI - including a 2020 warning for sleeping on shifts while working as the responsible pharmacist - and had been subject to an interim suspension order since January 2021 with the PSNI for his “chronic cocaine use”.

Read more: Pharmacy manager who stole to pay for mother’s cancer treatment struck off

A notice on Mr Lyness’s PSNI registry entry from October 2023 indicated that he had first had an interim suspension order imposed by the Northern Irish regulator on January 25 2021.

Interim conditions were imposed in July 2021, but the PSNI’s statutory committee reimposed a suspension for 18 months in January 2022, which was then twice extended by the high court, it said.

 

“Genuinely sorry”

 

In his written submissions to the regulator, Mr Lyness said that he was “genuinely sorry” for his behaviour, according to the hearing document.

“I have always been a loyal person who stands up for what I believe is right, but with hindsight I’m ashamed to say I have taken this too far,” he said.

And he admitted that “taking cocaine is not acceptable and was a foolish way to try to ‘cope’ with the stressful situations of the last few years” and that this “has to stop”.

Read more: Locum handed six-month suspension after ‘wholly unnecessary’ vaginal exam

“I sincerely apologise to everyone I have hurt, especially my profession, fellow colleagues, family and wife,” he said.

“I know I deserve to be punished for my mistakes but I hope we could come to an agreement that would work for everyone, so I can continue to use my skills for the benefit of the community and patients,” he added.

 

“Difficult personal circumstances”

 

The committee found that Mr Lyness had engaged with the regulatory process and had admitted the “factual allegations”.

Mr Lyness also provided “positive” references that spoke to his “clinical competence and otherwise good character”, it said.

He had apologised and told the committee that he had been engaged in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) among other remedial measures, it added.

Read more: Pharmacy technician convicted after ‘paedophile hunter’ sting struck off

The committee accepted that Mr Lyness had faced “difficult personal circumstances” at the time of his offences and that he now had “a more settled family life”.

And it gave Mr Lyness “credit for the steps he has taken to address his behaviour and drug issues”.

 

“Extremely limited” remorse

 

However, the committee said that the “grave seriousness” of Mr Lyness’s offending, which occurred while he was already under an interim order imposed by the PSNI, was “fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the register”.

The committee noted that Mr Lyness’s expression of remorse was “extremely limited” with no “real evidence” of reflection.

His offences took place over “a sustained period” and it had “no assurance” that he would not repeat his behaviour, it said.

Read more: Pharmacy technician found with ‘indecent images of children’ struck off

The committee determined that Mr Lyness should be removed from the register and imposed an interim suspension to cover the 28-day period that follows a sanction being issued or the conclusion of an appeal process.

Read the determination in full here.

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