Last week, three men were given lengthy sentences for the aggravated burglaries they carried out in April and May of 2012 in Pallasgreen, Co Limerick.
Patrick Roche, aged 53, from Kilcronan Close, Clondalkin, Dublin, and his son, Philip Roche, aged 24, were jailed for 17 years and 15 years respectively.
Patrick Roche’s son-in-law, Alan Freeman, aged 37, from Pearse Park, Tipperary town, was jailed for 14 years.
In April 2012, the three men broke into the home of Gerry and Anne Garvey, holding the couple and their four children at gunpoint before fleeing with cash.
In May 2012, the Roches broke into the home of elderly siblings Willie, Nora, and Chrissie Creed, assaulting them and stabbing Mr Creed. They subsequently left with money stolen from the Creeds.
Yesterday, the Garveys said they were delighted at the length of the sentences handed down, but asked how men with so many previous convictions were free to terrorise rural dwellers.
At sentencing last week, the court heard that Patrick Roche had 139 previous convictions, Philip Roche had 37, and Freeman had 22.
Patrick Roche and Freeman were on bail at the time the offences took place.
“I find it very very difficult to believe that somebody that has 139 previous convictions can be out,” said Ms Garvey.
“I think the whole system needs to be changed. I think they should be just left there until they get their sentence and then if many months have passed, then that can go off the sentence.”
Mr Garvey also expressed his concern for the trial’s cost to the taxpayer.
“One of the things that really galls me is, apart of the huge investment in garda and detective time, is that it’s estimated that the cost of the trial was over €1m of taxpayers money and to me that’s not money well spent,” he said.
“I think we should go back to the old thing, prevention is better than cure. If even half of that money had been spent on preventive measures, if better things were put into place to help to gardaí do their job and support rural communities. I think it would be money better spent.”
Mr Garvey said that it was to his “horror” that he realised that each of the men had a senior counsel and two junior counsel for the trial.
“So basically you had nine council represent three defendants against two from the State and, as a taxpayer, I find that absolutely galling,” he said. “I think everyone’s entitled to proper legal defence but I think there should be some limits.”
Mr Garvey said his children will no longer go out to get turf after dark and they always lock their gate after their ordeal. Ms Garvey said the Creeds have been deeply affected by what they suffered.
“Those three people were left for dead,” she said.
“It was an incredible situation that went on for two, two and a half hours and nearly six years on we don’t see them, they don’t go out.
“I remember bringing Willie Creed home and driving into the farmyard. I met Chrissy and she was snow white. The last time I had seen her she had black hair.
“I was shocked but I’ve since been told that she doesn’t go out, even to Mass. I thought she used to be taken to Mass but that isn’t even happening now.”