A detective garda, who thought he would die when he was viciously attacked by two pitbull terriers, has been awarded €200,000 damages against the State in the High Court.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton said he was satisfied that Detective Garda John Leahy, aged 52, suffered an exacerbation of a degenerative condition in his back and left hip which required surgery.
The State had claimed that it accepted the incident may have exacerbated Det Garda Leahy’s back condition, but denied that it was sufficient enough to result in surgery.
Det Garda Leahy had told a Garda compensation hearing that in June 2008 he was a member of the Divisional Drug Unit in Galway and was patrolling in a car with Garda Orla Keenan when they noticed two known drug users around Wolfe Tone Bridge.
The court heard that the two gardaí followed them until they entered a house at St Dominic’s Rd, The Claddagh, which was known as a place used for the distribution of heroin.
Det Garda Leahy said when they confirmed that suspicious activity was going on inside, they waited for Garda reinforcements and shouted “Garda Drug Unit” as they entered the house.
Det Garda Leahy told his barrister, Bruce Antoniotti, that the light was switched off in the room as he tried to search the man who resisted, causing both of them to fall.
The court heard that as the light was switched on again, the man succeeded in freeing himself while they wrestled on the floor. Three dogs, two pitbull terriers and a Yorkshire terrier, were released from another room.
The pitbulls attacked Det Garda Leahy, biting him on the legs. Other gardaí managed to beat off the dogs. Det Garda Leahy 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.
The court heard that the gardaí eventually managed to remove one of the pitbulls by hitting him on the head with a baton.
Det Garda Leahy, after wrestling with the dog for several minutes, managed to lie on his back, holding the dog’s throat. Judge Barton heard that it took six gardaí to eventually control the dogs.
Mr Antoniotti told the court Det Garda Leahy was taken to Galway Hospital where his injuries were sutured. One wound required 100 stitches. The court heard the wounds have left multiple scars on Garda Leahy’s legs. He had been out of work for a year and needed to undergo physiotherapy sessions.
Det Garda Leahy, who is part of the Crime Unit in Galway and in 1989 received a Scott Medal for bravery after he saved a man from a building in a Dublin fire, said he was still suffering from mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Barton said he was satisfied his back and hip surgeries had been required following the attack, awarding him €207,526 damages.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved