Tandragee couple jailed over £3k extortion plot
A blackmailing prostitute and her pimp boyfriend who extorted more than £3,000 from a 'customer' were each jailed for two years yesterday.
Sentencing sex worker Lorna White (23) and her pimp boyfriend Jason Hamill (27) at Newry Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the pair that while Hamill's gambling debts were "at the heart" of the case, he was "willingly assisted" by White in the extortion plot.
Ordering the pair to serve two years under supervised licence conditions once they are released, the judge told them that they had caused their victim to undergo "severe stress in his work, his social life and obviously financially".
The judge ordered that a BMW car which was seized by police should be sold and the victim compensated for the £3,200 he handed over to them.
Last May the couple, both from Market Street in Tandragee, admitted six counts of blackmail against a man White had sex with, who had paid her £100.
The blackmail charges reveal that on dates between July 1, 2017 and May 10, 2018, they demanded various sums of money.
While White confessed to a further count of intimidating the witness, that count was dropped against Hamill and conversely, he admitted a charge of possessing £1,600 of criminal property, a charge which wasn't proceeded with against White.
In a separate indictment, Hamill also confessed to controlling White's prostitution for gain.
Opening the Crown case against them last week, prosecuting counsel Geraldine McCullough told the judge the complainant had met with White last July and had sex with her in a car and in a flat in Tandragee, paying her £100.
Following those trysts however, he was contacted by the couple "on a number of occasions" when they told him he had been photographed and video recorded having sex with White.
He was told to pay them £500 or they would send the video to his fiancee and this later went up to £1,000, said the lawyer.
At one stage, they sent the victim a screenshot of him in White's bedroom, and it was then that he contacted police and the couple were arrested.
The pair were subsequently freed on police bail but barred from contacting the victim. Using social media however, White sent him a message demanding that he withdraw his evidence.
Ms McCullough said that overall, the victim had been forced to hand over £3,200.
In mitigation, defence counsel Justin Byrne and Bobbi Rea said that the couple were "very much in love" and that while Hamill had pleaded to controlling his girlfriend's prostitution, "she was a willing partner".
Describing the case as a "joint enterprise," the judge was told that there was "no coercion here".
The couple also asked for credit for pleading guilty, thereby saving the victim from having to testify in a public arena. However, the judge said any credit would be limited as "there was absolutely no contest" against the prosecution case.
In passing sentence, Judge Kerr said while Hamill had admitted controlling White's prostitution, it was clear she was "quite culpable" for the blackmail offences, and that she was a willing assistant, evidenced by the fact that while on bail she intimidated the victim.
It was for those reasons, said the judge, that he wasn't differentiating in their four-year sentences.