Father and son face jail term for £5,000 blackmail scheme
A father and son have been told that they have two weeks to "get their affairs in order'' before facing a jail term over a £5,000 blackmail plot.
The ultimatum was issued by a judge at Belfast Crown Court yesterday as he heard how the pair demanded cash from their victims.
George Patrick Hardy (56), of Old Forge, and Pierce John Christopher Hardy (23), of Harris Crescent, both Dunmurry, west Belfast, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of blackmail.
Belfast Crown Court heard the charges related to a 12-day period between February 28 and March 12, 2016 when the pair "made a demand with menaces'' from their victim for £5,000.
Prosecution counsel Robin Steer said the victim, known only as 'Witness A', received the first phone call from Pierce Hardy on February 28, 2016, in which a demand was made for £5,000 "or he would get a bullet in the face''. The witness was instructed to drop the money at a location in west Belfast. Further calls were made to the victim, telling him that he was "being watched'' and to pay up the money.
The caller claimed he knew where he lived, the ages of his children and threatened that if the money was not paid the house would be burned down.
Two of the calls were made by George Hardy, who had been referred to in previous calls to the victim by his son as 'The Boss'.
Witness A alerted police and while at Lurgan PSNI station, the court heard, he received another call from the blackmailers which detectives listened to over a loud speaker. As a result, police started to monitor the calls and the demands for money continued, but the amount being sought 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. Witness A's telephone number had been saved on one of the phones under the name of 'D*******'.
George Hardy was also arrested but he initially denied any knowledge of the blackmail plot.
Mr Steer said blackmail was a serious offence, adding: "It is one of the most serious offences in the criminal calendar.''
Mark Farrell, defence counsel for Pierce Hardy, said the case was not one involving paramilitaries or organised criminals.
"I acknowledge this is an extremely serious offence, but this was amateurish.
"There is clear regret on his part," he told the court.
Defence barrister Sean Mullan said George Hardy's offending was "at the lower end of the scale'', adding: "He regrets where he has now placed himself."
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told the pair: "I am going to release you on continuing bail. Mr George Hardy, you should make arrangements that your grandson is looked after as you will be going to prison.
"Pierce Hardy, you should get your affairs in order as you too will also be going to prison."