A family terrorised in their home by a violent gang who savagely beat the father and threatened to kill the children during a late-night burglary are “free for the first time” since the ordeal after learning that their attackers will remain behind bars.
But the Corcoran family from Co Tipperary had to hear that two of the seven-member gang — pictured right — who turned their lives upside down were having their 20-year sentences reduced by two years each after their cases were concluded at the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Mark and Emma Corcoran still live with both the physical and psychological scars from the terrifying night of November 21, 2013, when the gang came from Dublin to ransack their home, demanding access to a safe that did not exist.
However, the couple, who lost their small gym equipment rental business after the attack, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the appeal hearing, saying it allowed them to move on with their lives for the first time in three and a half years.
“They’re delighted,” their solicitor Kieran Cleary said after the appeal proceedings ended. “It’s finality. You need finality in crime. You need to know they can’t upset you and frighten you again. They’re now free for the first time. They’re free of this terrible ordeal.”
Mr Cleary said the Corcorans, who still live in the same home outside the village of Killenaule, were doing “fine” and he paid tribute to their courage and their determination to overcome their trauma.
The original trial in 2015 heard that the men entered the house armed with a sawn-off shotgun, a machete and a handgun. They were heard on a 999 call threatening to “kill your fucking kids”, who were aged eight, six, and two at the time, and also struck Mr Corcoran on the face with the butt of a gun, fracturing his eyesocket.
They left him bound and bleeding on the ground and dragged his wife through the house by her hair while their eldest daughter screamed that her daddy was dead and her little sisters cried hysterically.
Two of the gang were given sentences of 20 years each, with the final four years suspended — now reduced to 18 years, still with four suspended. Three other men who received sentences of 15, 14, and 12 years, had their appeals dismissed. Two others who were sentenced to 12 years each with seven years suspended did not appeal.
The attack on the family shocked the country. The gang, who were all in their 20s, had 315 prior convictions between them, and laughed and blew kisses as they were led to prison after their original trial.
It happened at a time of deep fear in rural areas over a spate of crimes by travelling gangs from Dublin who deliberately targeted isolated homes in communities where Garda numbers had been decimated.
A second court case yesterday highlighted how gangs remained undeterred by the public outcry and political pledges of action. A member of an Eastern Europe gang who ram-raided shops in rural Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary, stealing hundreds of thousands of euro worth of stock between 2014 and 2015 was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail for his part in the crimes.
Seamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link, said small business owners in the provinces still remained very vulnerable.
“Security is always on your mind and the cost of protecting your business is a big added burden,” he said.
“It’s not like you have the comfort of being located in a business park or a shopping centre in an urban area where there are shared security arrangements and CCTV — you’re very much on your own.”
A recent study commissioned by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association found that two thirds of farmers reported being a victim of crime.
Mr Boland said protecting valuable equipment was a major concern — as was the safety of staff who may be working alone or with just one other colleague.
“We’ve almost moved beyond the point of asking for rural Garda stations to be retained because the reality is, even if it’s kept open, the nearest one could be 30 miles away and unmanned half the time,” said Mr Boland. “We need to look at a different kind of policing with greater use of the Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch schemes and greater linkage of those with the Garda resources available.”
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