Mother applauds in court as son's killer jailed for 15 years
THE family of the 12-year-old Tallaght boy who perished when the makeshift den he was sleeping in with a pal was torched in 2001 applauded when his killer was handed a 15-year sentence.
Dermot Griffin (54), of Ballyfermot Road, Dublin, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Stephen Hughes at Rossfield Avenue in Tallaght on September 1, 2001.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday he finally heard his fate for the crime he committed 13 years ago.
The court heard that Griffin had 39 previous convictions, including assault causing harm, burglary and robbery.
The main evidence in the case came from three witnesses who placed Griffin at the scene.
But it took a dramatic change in evidence in 2012 when witness Tracey Deegan came forward and told gardai she had lied in 2001 to cover for Griffin.
Ms Deegan (38) said that Griffin, her former partner, wanted to burn the hut because he didn't want joyriders and gardai in the area.
Daryl Hall, who was aged 14 at the time, described how he scrambled out of the burning hut and tried to rescue his pal.
"I thought he was behind me. When I got on the wall, standing on the wall, I jumped back down. I tried to lift up the door, I heard him coughing," he said.
He was unable to lift the hut open again and got back up on the wall and started screaming for help.
He said that a number of people came over including Griffin. The witness said the accused asked, "was there someone in there?" and then put his hands on his head.
Outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Stephen's mother Elizabeth read a short statement to the media.
"We are very happy with today's sentencing. I would like to thank Tallaght gardai for all their hard work on the case over the past 13 years," she said.
"And I would like to also thank all the witnesses who came forward, and all my family and friends for the love and support during and prior to this trial.
"At last after 13 years I can say I got justice for Stephen."
Elizabeth said Stephen was "always bubbly and full of fun and adventure.
"Unfortunately an adventure one night turned into this. What more can I say, we will never forget him," she said.
"We never thought it would take 13 years. It's been 13 long, hard years, but I'm finally glad to say that it's over now and Stephen can finally rest in peace.
"I never gave up. I never, ever gave up hope," she said.