WATCH: Ring of steel around gang as they’re sentenced for roles in burglary that left young family crying for their lives
This is the ring of steel that surrounded seven men as they entered court earlier this week on trial for their roles in an aggravated burglary.
Heavily armed gardai escorted the men into Clonmel Circuit court.
The seven men aged in their twenties from Dublin left a couple and their three young children crying for their lives when they entered the family’s house in Burnchurch, a rural area outside Killenaule in Co Tipperary, armed with a shotgun, handgun and machete, early on November 21, 2013.
Today, the men were sentenced to up to 20 years each.
Mark and Emma Corcoran told the court during the trial that they were in fear of their lives and the lives of their children, aged eight, six and two at the time, during the incident.
During the trial, the gang were filmed making their way to and from the court. The footage conveys what appears to be a nonchalance about the court appearances. The men can be seen blowing kisses to three members of the media present.
Just two of the men attempt to cover their faces while the others were seen laughing and joking..
There were two sections of the Garda Armed Response Unit deployed and a number of gardai were also deployed to the courthouse for security measures for two days this week.
The men had a senior counsel, a junior counsel and a solicitor each for the case. They were all receiving legal aid, paid for by the taxpayer.
Dean Byrne (22) of Cabra Park, Dublin 17, was given a sentence of 20 years, with four suspended, backdated from November 21 of 2013.
Patrick Gately (28) of Primrose Grove, Darndale, Dublin 17, was also sentenced to 20 years, with four suspended for 10 years.
John Joyce (21) of Lentisk Lawn, Donaghmede, Dublin, was sentenced to 15 years, with four of those suspended.
Patrick Joyce (23) of Beaumont Hall, Beaumont Woods, Dublin 9, was given a sentence of 14 years, with four suspended.
Thomas Flynn (21) of Moatview Avenue, Coolock, Dublin 17, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with three of those suspended.
Donal O’Hara (22) of Glin Park, Coolock, Dublin 17, was sentenced to 12 years, with seven suspended.
Michael McDonagh (23) of Tara Lawns, Belcamp Lane, Coolock, Dublin 17, who was the only defendant with no previous convictions, was sentenced to 12 years, with seven of those years suspended.
All of the suspensions were for 10 years and to come into effect upon them leaving prison, under conditions including keeping the peace, staying free of alcohol and drugs and engaging with the Probation and Welfare Service.
On the night of the burglary, the thugs travelled in convoy from Dublin to Tipperary, stealing a car in Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny on the way, on the night of November 20/21 in 2013 and were apprehended by gardaí at two locations on the motorway system as they tried to make their getaway back to Dublin.
Detective Sergeant James White told the court that Mark Corcoran, who was sleeping in a back bedroom as he had an early start the next morning and didn’t want to wake the rest of the family, was awoken by a man in a black balaclava, “brandishing a large knife” and another man who had a handgun. They shouted “where is the safe” and “where is the money”.
Mark Corcoran was led into the living area of the house and struck in the face with the butt of a gun and sustained a fractured eye socket. His hands were tied behind his back with cable-ties and one of the raiders knelt on his back.
“The eldest two children were awake and in the hallway,” Sgt White said. “They had a clear view of what was going on. They could see what was happening to their father. They could hear the raiders making threats.”
Mr Corcoran 'thought he was going to be shot', the court heard. “He was in fear of his life.”
His wife Emma Corcoran was awoken by the sound of glass breaking and made a 999 call before leaving her phone under the bed with the call still active. “The one thing that is most clear in the 999 recording was the terrified screams of the children,” Sgt White said.
At one point Emma Corcoran was 'forcibly removed' from her bedroom and saw her husband being struck in the face. She was also told “we’ll kill your f**king kids” by one of the raiders. “Emma Corcoran was without doubt in fear of her life and that of her three children.”
The Corcorans had a gym equipment-supply business at the time, which they since closed as a result of their ordeal, but there was no safe in the house. The raiders took about €1,300 in cash, which represented the previous day’s takings and petty cash, as well as jewellery.
The raiders took the Corcorans’ family car, a seven-seat Kia Sorrento, as well as their own Volkswagen Passat, to make their escape.
One of the vehicles, containing five of the gang, was apprehended near Monasterevin, and armed gardaí arrested the men at about 4.25am. Some of the stolen property was found in the car.
The other car, the stolen Kia, was eventually stopped just before Newlands Cross and two men inside were arrested - Patrick Gately who was driving and Dean Byrne.
Mark Corcoran was in court but did not give evidence, while his wife was not present for the hearing. Victim impact statements were read out for all five members of the family, in which Mr Corcoran said he felt an enormous sense of guilt because he couldn’t do anything to protect his wife and children during the burglary.
“My eldest daughter was standing over me, crying ‘Daddy is dead’. I can only describe it as being like being at my own funeral, without being dead.”
In her statement, Emma Corcoran said the happiness and memories from the house in which she’d grown up had been taken away. “I will never get over seeing my husband being beaten in front of me that night and my kids looking on. My kids wake up every night with nightmares and live in fear of what happened.”
The couple’s eldest daughter said in a victim impact statement: “I thought my Daddy was going to die when the robbers beat him up. There was blood everywhere. I don’t feel safe at home any more. Whenever I hear a bang, I think the robbers are back.”
The youngest daughter, who was two at the time, was awake during the incident and was found in her cot, “rocking herself and her teddy” and “shaking with fear”.