Pubdate: Sun, 05 Feb 2006
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Robert Winnett
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


A WEALTHY music producer has spoken about the dangers of cannabis 
after being viciously assaulted in her home by a family friend who 
had been made psychotic by the drug.

Lisa Voice, one of Britain's richest women, has had to undergo 11 
operations to reconstruct her face after the unprovoked attack last June.

Voice's lawyers hope that her decision to go public about her trauma 
will encourage the government, police and courts to rethink their 
approach to cannabis misuse. They say that her experience calls into 
question the government's decision to lower the classification of 
cannabis, despite medical warnings that it can lead to psychosis 
among some users.

She was asleep when the 20-year-old family friend, who was in her 
home in north London, attacked her in her bedroom. He punched her 
repeatedly, tried to strangle her and jumped on her head.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm. Medical 
experts concluded that he was mentally unstable at the time of the 
assault due to "cannabis psychosis". He will be sentenced at 
Middlesex crown court tomorrow.

Voice's injuries were so severe that on the night of the attack 
doctors warned her family that she was unlikely to live. She lost 
some of her vision when her eye sockets were smashed and has had her 
nose rebuilt with ear cartilage.

Over the past eight months Voice, a 52-year-old mother of two, has 
also had titanium plates inserted into her face to hold her cheeks 
together and underwent a tracheotomy to allow her to breathe.

A music producer who has worked with pop stars from Sir Tom Jones to 
Lemar, Voice has also built up a property investment company. At the 
time of the attack Hollywood film makers were working on a movie 
about her life, including her 12-year relationship with Billy Fury, 
the rock star, who died in 1983.

Speaking from her home yesterday, Voice, who is worth UKP29m 
according to the Sunday Times Rich List, said: "He (her attacker) was 
a kind, sweet boy I had known for more than a year and welcomed into 
the family. But a few days before the attack I noticed he was acting 
strangely. I suspected he was smoking cannabis.

"Then I woke up to find myself being attacked. He broke my jaw, 
totally destroyed my nose, smashed my skull and my whole face now 
needs wires and metal plates to function. I am a bionic woman as a 
result of this assault."

Voice's life was shattered on the morning of June 7, 2005, with a 
sharp blow to her head while she was still asleep. Punch after punch 
rained down on her and she was dragged out of bed. Her attacker then 
began to jump on her head. She thought her life was over.

"I was yanked out of bed. He was punching me continually. It was just 
petrifying," Voice said yesterday. "I could feel my jaw swinging 
everywhere, my cheeks were hanging off, he smashed my nose to pieces. 
But then he started jumping on my head. He was strangling me. My eye 
sockets were smashed and I was lying there in a pool of blood."

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Voice was aware of her two 
teenage children in the room desperately struggling to stop the 
attacker. "My daughter was shouting, 'He's killed my mum, he's killed 
my mum'," she said. "Her nails were torn off trying to stop him."

Voice was already vigilant about security after a raid at her home in 
2002, when jewellery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds was 
stolen. She had installed a top-of-the-range security system.

However, last June's attack could not have been predicted. Her 
attacker had told them that he came from a respectable background, 
that his father was a teacher and his brother was a solicitor. He had 
been welcomed into the family. "In the days before the attack he did 
begin acting irrationally," recalled Voice. "I noticed something was 
wrong and he did seem to be losing the plot. I thought that all kids 
smoke cannabis today, but it's so strong they can't function."

Police and medical experts believe the cannabis triggered a psychotic 
incident - the assault. Voice told police: "I looked up and saw his 
eyes were huge and wide open. They were what I can only describe as 
wild and I was honestly terrified and feared for my life. I can still 
see his face and eyes staring down at me."

Dr Shahrokh Mireskandari, her lawyer, said: "Let government ministers 
who say cannabis is a harmless drug come and explain that decision to 
Mrs Voice and her many doctors. Cannabis should never have been 
reclassified and people such as Mrs Voice now face a lifetime of pain 
because of the dangers of this drug."

Voice plans to release photographs of the attack revealing the extent 
of her injuries. It is hoped that the images will have a similar 
impact to those of the heroin addict, Rachel Whitear, which were used 
in schools to warn children of the dangers of the drug. Voice is 
happy for the images of her injuries to be used in educational material.

Details of her attack come within weeks of the government decision 
not to return cannabis to its previous higher classification. It will 
remain a class C drug despite warnings from the Royal College of 
Psychiatrists that there is evidence linking use of the drug to 
psychosis and violence. Users are not automatically arrested for possession.

Although Voice's attack was over in minutes, she is still recovering. 
Doctors told the family that it was one of the most vicious attacks 
they had encountered. That evening, medical staff told her family to 
fear the worst.

However, with the help of a team of specialist reconstructive 
surgeons and 11 operations to date, her face has slowly been rebuilt.

"I had no nose and couldn't breathe so they took cartilage from my 
ear and used that to rebuild my nose," she said. "I have titanium 
plates behind my cheeks - which are held in place by wire running 
behind my nose, face and eyes and secured through my jaw - which also 
had to be rebuilt.

"I've lost part of my vision which can make me unsteady on my feet 
and have had a tracheotomy."

However, she remains optimistic. "I do actually regard myself as 
fortunate and I am lucky. I did have a good face, good features and I 
do now have an odd mouth and eyes, but to be quite honest I almost 
died that day. I have had to put my film on hold but am now excited 
about the prospect of starting work on it again."

Her assailant has since been successfully treated for his "condition" 
and has expressed his remorse to the family.

The family's legal advice is that he may well receive a non-custodial 
sentence when he is sentenced tomorrow. However, Voice will present 
the judge with statements from the family detailing the impact that 
the assault has had on them.

Last year researchers from New Zealand reported that regular cannabis 
smokers had almost double the normal risk of schizophrenia. 
Particular concern has focused on the strong "skunk" variety of cannabis.

Charles Clarke, the home secretary, wrote to his panel of independent 
experts last year asking them to re-evaluate the decision to 
downgrade cannabis. He and Tony Blair had indicated that a U-turn was 
imminent but the panel did not recommend a reclassification.
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