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Couple 'fled home after loyalist threats'

A couple were threatened with having their house burnt down and being forced out of Northern Ireland unless a £10,000 “fine” was paid, the High Court heard.

Prosecutors said men claiming to be from the UDA warned they would be shot if police were alerted. The alleged victims, identified as Witnesses A and B, were said to have fled their home and slept in their car for several days.

Thousands of pounds were handed over during arranged meetings at a car park in Newtownards, Co Down, the court heard, and £3,800 was paid out when one suspect arrived at their door.

Details were disclosed as the prosecution successfully appealed bail granted to a man accused of running the gang allegedly responsible. Richard Barry (37), of Cairndore Way, Newtownards, faces a charge of blackmail. He was arrested at a bar.

He denied UDA involvement and claimed to have been collecting a debt owed to a loan shark, the court heard. Crown counsel Kate McKay said neither victim has criminal convictions, and police have no information linking them with drug dealing.

Barry was granted bail last Friday. But after hearing details of the case against him Mr Justice McClaughlin allowed the prosecution appeal against that decision.

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