Gang leader and rapist released after 15-year prison sentence

Freeing of Christy Griffin raises fears of third gang feud in inner city Dublin

Christy Griffin has been released from Midlands Prison, Portlaoise. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Christy Griffin has been released from Midlands Prison, Portlaoise. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Notorious crime gang leader Christy Griffin has been freed from prison after serving a sentence for rape.

Gardaí are now fearful a feud that emerged in the Sheriff Street area of Dublin’s north inner city may reignite.

Griffin (48) was released from the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, Co Laois, on Wednesday having served his full sentence.

He was jailed for life for the repeated rape of a girl over an eight-year period. However, that was reduced to 15 years on appeal, and with a quarter off his sentence for remission, his release date came after serving 11 years and three months.

Griffin began abusing his victim when she was aged just eight and continued raping her until she was 16. By the time the allegations first emerged in 2003, he was the leader of a major north inner city drug dealing and armed robbery gang.

When his actions became known, the crime group he led split into two factions – those who remained loyal to him at odds with those who turned against him.

The split resulted in what became known as the Sheriff Street feud during which five men died.

Although the feud has long dissipated, gardaí are concerned it may now erupt again. There are also concerns that Griffin and those around him may now get involved in the Kinahan-Hutch feud, as some of his associates are already involved.

Complex challenges

The Sheriff Street feud threw up very complex challenges for the Garda as most of those involved lived in very close proximity. Armed gardaí were posted full-time for years in the area around Sheriff Street.

At present, there is a major policing operation in the north inner city, including Sheriff Street, to suppress the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

Another separate feud – between Hutch associates and a faction based in Ballymun, north Dublin – has also worsened of late, resulting in two gun attacks, one of them fatal, in the north inner city.

Griffin’s release raises the prospect of a third front of feuding in the same north inner city area.

As well as the gun murders committed as part of the Sheriff Street feud, there were on-street beatings and stabbings. A number of drive-by shootings were also linked to the feud and, in several cases, hand grenades were thrown at houses.

The violence began in October 2005 when shots were fired into Griffin’s home in Ridgewood Green, Swords – where he had moved from Canon Lillis Avenue, Dublin 1 – wounding him in the arm.

In revenge, the home of the woman raped by Griffin was shot at.

In November 2006, a hand grenade was thrown into Griffin’s house, exploding. Another was thrown into a relative’s house but failed to go off.

In December 2006, as Griffin’s trial for rape approached, the feud tensions were at an all-time high, resulting in two murders.

Gerard Batt-Byrne (25) of Ferryman’s Crossing, Dublin, was shot dead at the IFSC on December 13th. He was a rival to Griffin.

Two weeks later a gunman crept into a house on Oriel Street and shot Stephen Ledden (28) in the head as he lay on a sofa. He was shot by mistake by a killer targeting another man thought to be behind Batt-Byrne’s murder.

In January 2007, Griffin was convicted of rape and jailed for life, but the feud violence continued.

Ardlea Inn

In April 2008, Anthony Russell (30), Cromcastle Drive, Kilmore, was gunned down as he sat drinking with friends in the Ardlea Inn, Artane. Russell was close to Griffin and was believed to have been involved in the killing of Gerard Batt-Byrne.

Aiden Byrne (32), a convicted rapist, was shot dead in February, 2010, as part of the Sheriff Street feud. He was a first cousin to Batt-Byrne.

Stephen Byrne (32) from Mariners Port, off Sheriff Street, was killed in a feud gun attack in July 2010.

Some of those involved in the feud have threatened to kill gardaí in the past.

That threat was made in the wake of the shooting dead by members of the force of two raiders in an attempted post office robbery in Lusk, Co Dublin, in May 2005.

One of those killed was Colm Griffin, a brother of Christie Griffin.

The threat to kill gardaí was taken so seriously that Garda witnesses at the inquest into the deaths of the two shot in Lusk were allowed to give evidence from behind a screen.

In an unprecedented move, airport-style security was put in place at Dublin’s Coroner’s Court, and armed gardaí were stationed on the roof.