Belfast Telegraph

Father thought son's alleged £5k blackmail plot was 'prank'

Court also hears alleged victim received threatening call while reporting matter to police

By Alan Erwin

A man accused of helping his son in a £5,000 blackmail plot thought it was just a prank, the High Court heard.

George Hardy, 55, allegedly declared himself "the boss" as part of a series of menacing phone calls demanding payment from the victim.

His 23-year-old son Pierce is linked to earlier threats that the target would get "a bullet in the face" if the cash was not delivered to a west Belfast location, prosecutors claimed on Wednesday.

New details emerged as the older of the two accused was granted bail. George Hardy, of Ardcaoin Drive, and Pierce Hardy, from Harris Crescent - both in Dunmurry - are jointly charged with blackmail.

Prosecution counsel said the victim, referred to as Witness A, first alerted police in February to phone calls threatening him and his family.

"They were demanding money or a bullet would be put in his face," the barrister said.

Threats were also made to burn his house down if the money was not delivered, it was claimed.

The caller told Witness A he knew where he lived and the ages of his two children, the court heard.

One call was made while the victim was in a PSNI station reporting the incident, with officers able to listen to the demand on a loud speaker.

Pierce Hardy is allegedly linked to the plot by a phone found on him when he was stopped by police on March 11.

His father's alleged involvement centres on two calls made earlier that month. Prosecution counsel said Witness A was contacted on March 3 by a man demanding money and claiming to be "the boss".

Police records revealed the mobile used to contact him was previously linked to George Hardy.

During interviews the older accused accepted making the calls, claiming his son had typed in the number, the court was told.

"He stated this was a prank and that he never meant it to go so far," the prosecutor added.

Defence lawyer Sean Mullan argued that George Hardy's alleged role was limited. "On the Crown case the son is much more heavily involved in this incident," he said.

"Mr Hardy Sr was handed the phone, he was told 'Just tell him you're the boss and talk to him'.

"He thought his son was owed money or it was a prank." With Pierce Hardy already released on bail, Mr Mullan contended that the father should not have to remain in custody.

The court heard George Hardy is suffering from serious health issues, including epilepsy, heart problems and relies on a walking stick.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Stephens banned him from contacting either his co-accused or Witness A.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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