Father and son jailed over £5,000 blackmail plot
A west Belfast father and son have been jailed for a £5,000 blackmail plot.
George Patrick Hardy (56), of Old Forge, and Pierce John Christopher Hardy (23), of Harris Crescent, both in Dunmurry, pleaded guilty to a single charge of blackmail.
Sentencing them to 21 months in custody followed by 21 months on licence, Judge Geoffrey Miller said: "Blackmail is a serious offence. It preys on the soul of the victim."
The judge accepted that there was no paramilitary involvement in the "unsophisticated'' plot, saying it was not exactly clear what the motivation for the 30 phone calls was except "financial gain''.
He said threats were made to the victim and reference was made to an "organised crime gang'' and the feud-related murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in February 2016.
"There can be no doubt that these events were both frightening and very unsettling for the victim who had to stay away from his home with his children for five days," he said.
"Deterrent sentences have to be passed by the courts when those guilty of these offences are brought to justice."
Belfast Crown Court heard that the victim received the first phone call from Pierce Hardy in February 2016 when he was told "he would get a bullet in the face'' if he didn't drop £5,000 at a location in west Belfast.
Further calls followed over the next 12 days, warning that he was "being watched'' and that the caller knew the ages of his children, and threatening that his house would be burned down.
The victim alerted police and while at Lurgan PSNI station, he received another call from the blackmailers which detectives listened to over a loud speaker.
The demands for money continued but the amount dropped to £1,000.
The blackmail plot came to a halt when Pierce Hardy was arrested on the Grosvenor Road in west Belfast for an unrelated matter. Two mobile phones were seized - one from him and one at his father's house - linking him to the calls.
The court heard George Hardy had a previous conviction for false imprisonment relating to a tiger kidnapping in Cookstown, Co Tyrone where the victim was forced to hand over cash and jewellery and perfume were also stolen.