Man jailed for threatening to shoot victim if he failed to hand over £5,000
A north Belfast man who called at the home of an Antrim man and told him to hand over £5,000 or he would be shot has been jailed.
The West Belfast UDA was mentioned during the incident which happened almost two years ago.
Stephen McLaughlin (41), of Columbia Street, appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday where he was handed a 12-month sentence for a charge of making a threat to kill.
The sentence handed to the father-of-two was divided equally between jail and licence by Judge Paul Ramsey KC.
Prior to imposing the sentence, Crown barrister Michael Chambers told Judge Ramsey that on November 24, 2021, McLaughlin and a co-accused called at the home of a couple in Antrim.
The female resident answered a knock on the front door, and when the two callers asked for her husband, she summoned him.
Mr Chambers said that after the male occupant went to the front door, £5,000 was demanded from him and was told if he couldn’t pay within a couple of days he “would be shot”.
The prosecutor added: “He was further warned that if they couldn’t get to him, they would get his family instead.”
The occupant asked what the money was for and was told to "never mind what for'' by the callers and reference was then made to a leading figure within the West Belfast UDA.
McLaughlin and his co-accused - Jonathan Robert Sterling (38), of West Circular Road in Belfast and who received the same sentence in June this year - then left the scene.
The couple contacted the PSNI and footage of the interaction, which was caught on CCTV, was handed over.
Both men were later arrested for questioning.
Mr Chambers said “the threat to kill was accompanied by a reference to a paramilitary organisation” and that couple from Antrim were left “distressed” by the incident.
Defence counsel Neil Connor KC said McLaughlin had a limited criminal record "but nothing of this nature on it''.
He described McLaughlin as an "industrious person who works as self-employed'' and is keen to carry on that work and "to provide for himself and his family''.
"A separation from his wife and family, even for a relatively short period, is going to hit him hard. He is the main provider for his family,'' said Mr Connor.
"I can't submit any distinction between Mr McLaughlin and Mr Sterling in terms of their roles.''
The court heard that McLaughlin claimed to a probation officer that the £5,000 demanded from the victim was money which had been borrowed and not been repaid.
Judge Ramsey said the threat to kill was a "serious offence'', adding that McLaughlin had four previous convictions, which included entries for disorderly behaviour and drug offences.
"I can't overlook the serious nature of this offence and accordingly the only proper disposal of this case is a custodial sentence,'' added the judge.