Thursday 29 September 2016

Detective Garda hero (52) was 'viciously' attacked by two pit bull terriers as gardai searched for drugs, court hears

Saurya Cherfi

Published 01/02/2016 | 18:44

A 52-year-old Detective Garda hero was “ferociously and viciously” attacked by two pit bull terriers which were released against gardaí as they searched for drugs, a judge was told today.

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Det. Garda John Leahy told a Garda Compensation hearing in the High Court that the incident happened in June 2008 while he was a member of the Divisional Drug Unit in Galway.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton heard that Garda Leahy and Garda Orla Keenan had been patrolling in a car when they noticed two known drug users around Wolfe Tone Bridge in Galway.

Married father-of-one Garda Leahy said he and Garda Keenan followed them until they had entered a house at St Dominic’s Road, The Claddagh, which was known as a place used for the distribution of heroin.

Garda Leahy told his barrister, Bruce Antoniotti SC, that when they confirmed that suspicious activity was going on inside they had waited for Garda reinforcements and shouted “Garda Drug Unit” as they entered the house.

Garda Leahy said he saw a man put what he believed to be a packet of heroin in his mouth and warned the man he was going to be searched.  The man had gone into a room where there was several other people.

Mr Antoniotti, who appeared with barrister Breffni Gordon, said the light had been switched off in the room as Garda Leahy tried to search the man who resisted, causing both of them to fall.

Garda Leahy said that as the light was switched on again the man had succeeded in freeing himself while they wrestled on the floor and three dogs, two pit bull terriers and a Yorkshire terrier, were released from another room.

The court heard the pit bulls attacked Garda Leahy, biting him on the legs.  Other gardaí had beaten off the dogs.

Garda Leahy, who is suing the State, said the dogs were extremely vicious, snarling, growling and ripping at his jeans and his flesh, particularly on his left calf.

Garda Keenan, who burst into tears as she recollected the incident, said it was the worst experience she had seen in her life.

“It was horrific. I’ve never ever seen anything like that.  The dogs were ripping open his leg. He was screaming and there was blood everywhere,” she told Judge Barton.

Garda Keenan said she and her colleagues repeatedly begged the people in the house to call off the dogs, but they had refused and stood watching and calling the gardaí pigs.

“It was a brutal, savage attack. It was unreal,” Garda Keenan said.

The court heard the gardaí eventually managed to remove one of the pit bulls by hitting him on the head with a baton.

Garda Leahy, after wrestling with the dog for several minutes, had managed to lie on his back, holding the dog’s throat.  He had been face to face with the dog and shouted colleagues to call an ambulance.

Judge Barton heard it took six gardaí to eventually control the dogs.

Mr Antoniotti told the court Garda Leahy had been taken to Galway Hospital where his injuries had been sutured.  One wound had required 100 stitches.

Garda Leahy said the incident has exacerbated a degenerative condition in his back, which later required surgery.  It had caused pain in his left hip, which had also required surgery.

The court heard the wounds have left multiple scars on Garda Leahy’s legs.  He had been out of work for a year and had needed to undergo physiotherapy sessions.

Garda Leahy, who is part of the Crime Unit in Galway and had in 1989 received a Scott Medal for bravery after he rescued a man from a  building in a Dublin fire, said he was still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The State claims that it accepts the incident may have exacerbated Garda Leahy’s back condition, but denies it was sufficient enough to result in surgery.  Judge Barton reserved his judgment.

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