Hero garda gets €207,000 over pitbull attack
A hero detective garda, who thought he would die when he was viciously attacked by two pitbull terriers, has been awarded €207,000 damages against the State in the High Court.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton said in a reserved judgment that he was satisfied that Det Garda John Leahy (52) suffered an exacerbation of a degenerative condition in his back and left hip which required surgery.
The State had accepted the incident may have exacerbated Det Garda Leahy's back condition, but had denied it was sufficient to result in surgery.
Det Garda Leahy, a recipient of a Scott Medal for bravery after he saved a man from a fire, told a Garda Compensation hearing how, in June 2008, he was a member of the Divisional Drug Unit in Galway and was patrolling with Garda Orla Keenan when they noticed two known drug users around Wolfe Tone Bridge.
The two gardaí 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.
Married father-of-one Det Garda Leahy said 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.
He 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 went into a room where there were several other people.
Det Garda Leahy said the light was switched off as he tried to search the man, who resisted, causing both of them to fall. As the light was switched on again, the man had freed himself while they wrestled on the floor and three dogs - two pitbull terriers and a Yorkshire terrier - were released.
The pitbulls attacked Garda Leahy, biting him on the legs. It eventually took six gardaí to control the dogs.
Det Garda Leahy said the dogs were vicious, snarling, growling and ripping at his jeans and his flesh, particularly his left calf.
Garda Keenan said: "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."
Despite she and her colleagues begging the people in the house to call off the dogs, they refused.
One of Det Garda Leahy's wounds required 100 stitches. He was out of work for a year and had to undergo physiotherapy sessions. He said he still suffered from mild symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Judge Barton said he was satisfied his back and hip surgeries were required following the attack and awarded him €207,526 damages.