A MAN who admitted blackmailing two men after the wife of one of them stole thousands of pounds from his vulnerable elderly relative has narrowly avoided prison.
Stephen Corr (65) from Carnmore Road, Roslea originally denied the offences but later changed his plea admitting three counts of blackmail, two of which involved a male with the remaining matter against a second male.
On 27 May 2018 he made an unwarranted demand of £7000 and again on 6 August that year demanded a further £4000.
Also on 6 August, Corr demanded £7000 from the second male.
All demands were accompanied by, “A series of hostile and threatening calls.”
Dungannon Crown Court heard Corr approached the first victim threatening to go to police and £7000 was paid.
The next demands were on the basis Corr would go to the media, but these were not paid and the victims alerted police.
Corr was arrested making ‘no comment’ replies to all questions over the course of two interviews.
A defence barrister said after significant efforts by Corr and his family, “The defendant would be in a position to repay the sum obtained, provided the court would allow some time.”
He urged the court not to interfere with Corr’s liberty given, “The unusual circumstances of the case and my client’s health issues including his alcohol problems, which no doubt caused him to act as he did.”
Judge Brian Sherrard noted “a highly relevant background” to the offences with the wife of one victim awaiting sentencing for stealing cash from Corr’s elderly aunt.
That occurred in 2012 and when it was discovered an arrangement was made for repayment however Judge Sherrard remarked, “The papers in both cases persuade me there was a live debate over the amount which had been stolen. While that was resolved at £30,000, different figures have been given ranging between £60,000 and £100,000.”
He told Corr, “You felt short-changed by the theft from your elderly aunt. While that clearly aggrieved you, I want to make it absolutely clear that does not and cannot excuse your own criminal behaviour. By moving down the road of blackmail you fell into grave error … However the nature of offending was clumsy, amateurish, unplanned and unthinking. The demands were also for relatively small amounts of money. The threats did not go beyond lawful acts as going to police and media aren’t illegal. Nevertheless this caused considerable anguish to the victims.”
He continued, “The courts have consistently condemned blackmail and extortion offences and in dealing with such matters for decades have been encouraged to impose deterrent sentencing. There is a very close line between blackmail and theft or robbery.”
Imposing a sentence of two years imprisonment, Judge Sherrard decided to suspend this for three years on the basis, “The offending stands out as an aberration.”
In addition compensation of £7000 is to be paid to the first victim within six months.
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