A PROMINENT Limerick businessman who has suffered at the hands of vicious criminals, described the sentences handed down to the gang of seven who terrorised the Corcoran family in South Tipperary as a “watershed moment”.
Gerry Garvey, his wife and children were subjected to an horrific ordeal by armed raiders at their Pallasgreen home in 2012.
Mr Garvey welcomed the total of 105 years handed down last week to the perpetrators of the aggravated burglary at Burnchurch, near Killenaule.
Judge Thomas Teehan said the crime inflicted on Mark and Emma Corcoran and their three young daughters almost two years ago had “shocked an entire nation” and was an affront to law-abiding citizens.
Mr Garvey said: “It is about bloody time judges started being hard on them.”
“I think it is a watershed moment. I think a realisation is dawning that these are not petty criminals, they are serious perennial criminals with hundreds of previous convictions between them.
“The doing that that particular family got was much worse than ours – bad and all as ours was –with young kids involved. It was disgraceful. I was delighted to see the judge really coming down hard,” he continued.
Threats were made to Mr and Mrs Corcoran by the raiders – armed with a sawn-off shotgun, handgun and machete – that they would kill their children.
They were left in fear for their family’s lives and all three children have been emotionally scarred by this ordeal, heard Clonmel Circuit Court.
The seven men, in their 20s and from north Dublin, received between five and 16 years imprisonment each.
Mr Garvey said this type of sentencing should continue into the future.
“The message must go out that if they are involved in a serious type of crime, particularly when you have got people being terrorised - and especially women and children – they should throw the book at them.
“Someone said to me in the last couple of days when we were just chatting, ‘maybe it was time to bring back the rope’.
“Now, I wouldn’t go down that route but I think certainly a really hard-line approach is the way to go.
“There should be no leniency, none whatsoever, particularly for people with a number of previous convictions,” said Mr Garvey, who also hit out at the free legal system.
Each of the seven men had a senior counsel, junior counsel and a solicitor adding up to an estimated €35,000. “They get free legal aid at our cost. They play legal ping pong for two to three years,” he said.
The regional manager with St Vincent de Paul said in tandem with tougher prison terms should be increased support to the gardai.
“Prevention is better than cure and that comes with having more boots on the ground. Garda numbers have gone down. They are stretched to the limit – they can’t cover the stuff.
“I would say half the small rural crimes aren’t even being reported because people say what is the point? They are totally under-resourced,” said Mr Garvey, who called for gardai doing desk work to be relieved from these duties by administrators.
He says his own family have got a lot of help and support following what happened on April 16, 2012. A masked gang armed with a sawn-off shotgun, baseball bat and sledge-hammer entered their home at Sunville House by smashing the patio doors.
Once inside, Mr Garvey was restrained face down on the kitchen floor while members of the gang demanded to know where the safe and cash were.
Mr Garvey said they are coping “pretty well” but they will never forget it.
“In our case and now the Corcorans – the fact that people have been brought to justice is a huge, huge benefit to the victims.
“There are loads of crimes that are never solved and even though gardai may know who did it they can’t prove it and that’s a huge source of frustration,” said Mr Garvey, who added that it was very sad to see the seven smiling as they left the court in Clonmel last week. They also blew kisses.
“It is water off a duck’s back to them - it is just part of their lives,” concluded Mr Garvey.