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Blackmail accused wants bail for son's Sky TV dance bid

A man accused of blackmailing a Belfast businessman is seeking temporary bail so his son can take part in a TV dance competition, the High Court has heard.

John Patrick Clarke's application for compassionate bail was mounted as it was disclosed that police have warned a witness in the case that they are under threat.

Clarke (35), of Ardglen Place, Belfast, is accused of involvement in a plot to menace the alleged victim into handing over more than £11,000 in cash.

According to the prosecution, men claiming to be republican paramilitaries targeted the |businessman, named only as Witness A.

They threatened to subject him to a punishment shooting if he did not supply the cash, it was claimed.

The alleged victim has been put on a witness protection scheme after co-operating with police.

Three men have been charged following an operation which involved a swoop on the city's Markets area last September.

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Clarke, who faces two counts of blackmail, was arrested two months later.

In court he sought temporary release to look after his 12-week-old child while his partner accompanies an older son to London for filming of the Sky Television show Got To Dance.

Ian Tannahill, prosecuting, said police had confirmed his involvement with the dance team.

But he pointed out that Clarke had recently applied for compassionate bail due to his partner's ill-health.

Mr Tannahill said: “This is a man who has been repeatedly viewed by the court as someone who faces obviously very serious charges and that there is a risk in relation to witnesses, which would be further offences.”

Although the alleged victim is now in a protection scheme, the court was told that another witness has now made a statement.

Mr Tannahill said police have served that person with a warning that they are under threat.

Defence counsel Sean Devine argued that no other family members were in good enough health to look after Clarke's family.

With the prosecution confirming that an investigation was under way into money laundering allegations linked to Witness A, Mr Devine claimed his credibility was “shot to hell”.

He added: “The complainant in this case may either be sitting in the dock beside him (Clarke) or else be facing very serious charges in relation to money laundering.”

The judge adjourned the application until full medical details could be provided on all relatives of Clarke and his partner.

Mr Justice Treacy said: “I find it incredible that there is not one member of the family who would be available to look after this 12-week-old child.”

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