Belfast Telegraph

Man jailed over UDA blackmail plot loses appeal

A money collector jailed over a suspected £10,000 UDA blackmail plot has failed in a bid to have his conviction overturned.

Andrew McBride received a seven-year sentence for his part in a gang attempt to extort cash from a businessman who supplied cannabis.

McBride's lawyers claimed the trial judge got it wrong in deciding he knew what his co-accused were up to.

But the Court of Appeal ruled there had been enough evidence to make the finding against him. McBride (32), formerly of Upper Movilla Street in Newtownards, was convicted last year along with three other men from the north Down area.

Police surveillance film and phone-tap evidence formed part of the case against them.

Their trial heard how the victim, known as Witness A, was approached in 2009 after he had earlier provided small amounts of cannabis.

He was told he would have to pay the UDA a £10,000 fine for his role in growing the drugs.

Threats were made that his house would be burnt if he did not pay up, according to the prosecution case.

Either he or his partner would be shot if they went to police, it was claimed.

Eventually the couple fled their home, living in a car for a time before going to police.

McBride's involvement centred on collecting envelopes of money from Witness A on four separate occasions.

Following his arrest at a Newtownards bar in October 2009 he denied being part of the plot.

He was shown CCTV footage of the collections but claimed not to have known what was in the envelopes. Asked why he had carried out the activity on behalf of a co-defendant, he replied: "He's the type of guy that you wouldn't sort of like to say no to."

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