A 54-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing a child who was sleeping inside a makeshift den in Dublin in 2001.

Dermot Griffin set fire to the den at the rear of a house on Rossfield Avenue, Tallaght on 1 September 2001.

At the time 12-year-old Stephen Hughes was sleeping inside the den and could not escape the blaze. He died in the fire.

His friend 14-year-old Daryl Hall managed to escape the blaze.

Griffin showed no emotion as Judge Patricia Ryan passed sentence today.

The breakthrough in the case came two years ago when Griffin's former partner Tracey Deegan came forward and admitted she lied to gardaí at the time to protect him.

She testified that the father-of-four told her on the night of the fire that he wanted to burn the den because he did not want joyriders or gardaí in the area.

She also testified that Griffin went out twice that night and, even though he knew there was someone in the den because he felt a foot, he set it on fire.

Speaking after the sentence hearing, Superintendent Peter Duff thanked the witnesses who came forward.

He said this case illustrates the fact that even with the passage of time, it is important for people with information in relation to serious crime to contact gardaí.

Stephen's family clapped, cried and hugged each after the sentencing.

The boy's mother Liz Hughes thanked gardaí and the witnesses and said her child can now rest in peace.

Griffin, who has 39 previous convictions, has never shown any remorse for what he had done.