Man found guilty of causing death of boy in Tallaght den fire

Tuesday 20 May 2014 21.43
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Dermot Griffin had pleaded not guilty to manslaughter
Dermot Griffin had pleaded not guilty to manslaughter
Stephen Hughes was 12 years old when he died in the fire in the den where he was sleeping
Stephen Hughes was 12 years old when he died in the fire in the den where he was sleeping

A man has been found guilty of setting a children's makeshift den on fire causing the death of a boy over 13 years ago.

Stephen Hughes was 12 years old in 2001 when he died in the fire in the den where he had been sleeping overnight.

Dermot Griffin, 54, of Ballyfermot Road, Ballyfermot had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to manslaughter at Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght on 1 September 2001.

After a 13-day trial, the jury of six men and six women deliberated for just over five hours before returning the majority verdict.

Judge Patricia Ryan thanked the jury for their service. The main evidence against Griffin came from three witnesses who placed Griffin at the scene.

The jury heard that in 2011 Griffin's former partner Tracey Deegan went to gardaí and told them that Griffin was at home with her on the night and told her he was going out to burn it down.

Ms Deegan said that Griffin wanted to burn the hut because "he didn't want joyriders in the area, he didn't want guards in the area".

She said he went out and came back and told her he had felt a foot in the hut but that he still intended to set it on fire. He took some paper and went out again, she told the court.

Shortly after his return, the couple heard shouting and they both went out and saw the fire. She said: "Dermot looked at me in a shocked manner. He said there were kids in that."

Ms Deegan had originally told gardaí in 2001 that Griffin had stayed on the sofa with her all that night after they had smoked heroin and watched a movie.

She told this trial that she was covering up for Griffin and had been coached.

A neighbour, Linda Prentice, who was a heroin addict at the time, said she saw Griffin throw a lit white object into the hut and that the hut then went on fire. 

The trial also heard that James Farrelly told gardaí that Griffin had come up to him on the night and said "if you open your mouth he'll kill me". Mr Farrelly admitted he had smoked heroin on the night. 

Another witness, Jason Lambe, said that Griffin had told him not to mention his name to gardaí.