A man who set fire to the house of a detective who was involved in charging him with murder 20 years ago has been jailed for eight years.
Richard Bourke, who was ultimately acquitted of the murder charge, was “off his face” on alcohol and drugs when he lit a small flame at the front door of Detective Garda John Griffin's house in Finglas before returning to throw petrol on it in February this year, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told.
Det Gda Griffin's wife woke up to the sound of their fire alarm at 3am before the couple found smoke bellowing into their hall. The arson attack has left an “indelible scar” on the family, the court heard.
Bourke (36) of Sycamore Park, Finglas, Dublin, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson at two locations in Finglas on February 26, 2019.
When asked why he set fire to Det Gda Griffin's front door he said the detective “had him up on a murder charge” and he was “over it” but on the night in question it was “like a f*** you” to Det Gda Griffin. He said he had no intention of hurting anyone.
Judge Patricia Ryan said there had been an element of premeditation. She noted the arson was carried out at night and that Bourke knew the house was occupied. She set a headline sentence of 11 years and suspended the final three years, taking into account mitigating factors.
At a previous hearing, Inspector Gavin Ross told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that Bourke lived in the same area as Det Gda Griffin. The court heard Det Gda Griffin was involved in an investigation that led to Bourke being charged with murder about 20 years ago. Bourke was later acquitted.
On the night in question, Bourke drove to Det Gda Griffin's house and lit a small flame. When it didn't take, he returned with a can of petrol and threw it on the flame. This had a “fireball effect”, Insp Ross said.
Upon waking, the Griffins called 999 before managing to extinguish the flames. They noticed a man in a car peering at them before driving away, but did not recognise him. Their front door had to be replaced and the hall suffered smoke damage, the court heard.
In a victim impact statement read out by counsel, Detective Garda John Griffin said the attack had “left an indelible scar”. “I feel violated,” he said.
Det Gda Griffin said he loved his house, where he and his wife had raised their three children.
“My family home has now been turned unto a fortress,” he said, adding that a number of security measures had been put in place since the fire. “Simple things like talking to our neighbours over the garden wall are gone.”
“...This was an attack on me because of my occupation. It really hurts me that my family suffered because of my occupation.”
Det Gda Griffin said he considered taking early retirement from the force, but had instead removed himself from front line duties to alleviate his wife's worries about further attacks.
The court heard Det Gda Griffin was recovering from a knee operation on the night of the incident, but he slipped on a step while trying to put out the fire, setting his recovery back by two months.
“I feel no bitterness towards Richard Bourke,” he said. “I just want him to understand how my family suffered because of his actions.”