Anti Smoking drug Champix is Blamed for Assault
It must rank as one of the most bizarre defence strategies ever attempted. A man accused of assault has seen the case against him fall apart because he took an anti-smoking drug.
It may seem strange, but a television actor named Nicholas Williams, known to viewers from hospital drama Casualty was found not guilty of assaulting his girlfriend on her birthday. This was after medical experts claimed taking a drug called Champix, along with alcohol and problems with depression, may have caused Williams to lash out.
It is a drug used by more than half a million people in the UK every year to help them stop smoking. It is manufactured by Pfizer, a US pharmaceutical corporation based in New York. The drug has been approved for NHS use for over ten years and is only available on prescription. It stimulates the exact same brain receptors as nicotine. They decrease your cigarette cravings and help you deal with withdrawal.
Research has found those taking Champix have a much greater chance of giving up smoking in three months, compared to using a placebo. However, it is advised you should only take the drug while undergoing a programme of behavioural support. The substance has not been without its detractors, where it has been linked with depression and suicidal thoughts. The drug comes complete with an informative leaflet, although the manufacturer’s maintain studies have not established a connection between the drug and psychological problems.
In this case, the 33-year-old defendant was charged with assault and causing actual bodily harm. He was accused of subjecting his 26-year-old former girlfriend, the actress Helen Millar, to a two-hour ordeal in August 2018.
However, despite the severity of the charges, prosecutors have had to drop the case. This comes after two medical experts stated they could not dismiss the possibility the anti-smoking drug Champix played a role in William’s anger. Especially after the prosecution did not have time to disprove the evidence, so the court case was thrown out.
The trial took place at Blackfriars Crown Court in Central London, with Judge Henry Blacksell QC presiding. William’s legal counsel conceded the victim had been attacked, but their client denied the charges. He admitted having had a lot to drink but insisted he could not be held accountable for his behaviour due to the combination of alcohol and Champix.
Williams claimed to have no memory of what occurred, while his defence felt it could be connected to the anti-smoking drug he was taking. A medical expert, acting as a witness for the prosecution, initially said there was no proof Champix reacted with alcohol. However, he later conceded he could not entirely dismiss the possibility. The prosecution also sought to enter a university study into evidence, which could not find any sign mixing Champix with alcohol caused adverse side effects. The judge then declared delaying the trial would be unfair to the defendant. It was at that point Mr Williams was cleared of the charges and set free.
Henry Blacksell QC did impose a restraining order where Mr Williams and Miss Millar could not have any contact with each other for two years unless it was unavoidable due to their work if they had to act with each other
However, just as proceedings were ending, there was another incredible turn of events. The defendant was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack. It was a final unexpected occurrence in a most extraordinary case. One which has brought the quit smoking drug Champix to the forefront.