By Ann Healy, The Irish Times
TWO BROTHERS who stood by and did nothing to help a garda as he was being subjected to a savage 15-minute attack by two pit bull terriers, have each been given five-year suspended prison terms for allowing their home to be used as a drugs den by heroin dealers.
The garda had to get 100 stitches to one of his leg wounds.
Michael Stiffe (56) and Gerard Stiffe (50), St Dominic’s Road, the Claddagh, Galway, pleaded guilty to knowingly permitting the sale and supply of heroin from their home and lands on June 26th, 2008, when they appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court for sentencing.
Imposing the sentences, Judge Raymond Groarke said he had to send out a message to other vulnerable people who allow drug dealers use their premises, that while the Stiffe brothers were getting suspended sentences on this occasion, those coming before the court in future charged with similar offences would be going to prison.
The judge noted the degree of “gratuitous savagery” as outlined in the evidence whereby the brothers along with five other people who were in the brothers’ house when gardaí arrived to carry out a drugs search, just stood by and did nothing to call off the dogs as they savaged the garda.
Det Sgt Willie Beirne said the brothers were chronic alcoholics who were regularly given drink and told to go sit in a corner while the drug dealers used their house to sell and distribute drugs.
Sgt Beirne said gardaí obtained a warrant to search the house on June 26th, 2008, and arrived there at about 11.30pm.
They startled drug user and dealer John Tompkins in the hallway and he put something into his mouth when he saw them.
Det Garda John Leahy tried to get it out before he swallowed it and as both men grappled on the floor, Garda Leahy was attacked by two pit bull terriers.
Garda Orla Keenan begged the dogs’ owners Jason Shaughnessy and Leonard Farrelly to call the dogs off but they ignored her and stood watching the attack.
Sgt Beirne said Garda Leahy received very severe injuries to his legs. One injury alone on his left leg required 100 stitches and he could not return to work for a year.
Heroin with a street value of €3,000 was found in the house and all five people found there were arrested and questioned.
Gerard Stiffe told gardaí that Jason Shaughnessy brought drugs into his house regularly to sell to others. He said he knew his house was being used for this purpose but that he was afraid of Mr Shaughnessy.
Michael Stiffe told gardaí Mr Shaughnessy sold the drugs Tompkins put in his mouth that night. He said he was afraid of both men.
Gerard Stiffe admitted being paid €20 to €30 a week by Mr Shaughnessy for the use of the house. Shaughnessy would bring drink for the brothers and tell them to go into a corner of the sitting room and drink it.
Defence barristers said the brothers had low IQs, were open to suggestion and were genuinely afraid of Mr Shaughnessy. Both were chronic alcoholics while Michael Stiffe, the court was told, didn’t even know what day it was.
Sgt Beirne said he would have expected the Stiffe brothers to have at least asked the dogs’ owners to call the dogs off. “He [Garda Leahy] was screaming for help. Garda Keenan was screaming for assistance but there was absolutely no response from anyone in the house, including the two brothers. You would have thought they would have asked the others to do something. It’s hard to believe there was no response.”
Judge Groarke said he accepted the brothers were vulnerable but they knew the difference between right and wrong and at the very least they could have intervened with the dogs’ owners.