Man jailed for role in blackmail plot involving bakery delivery van

Laganside Court Building  in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Laganside Court Building in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A 33-year-old man who has 129 convictions on his criminal record was jailed yesterday for his role in a botched blackmail plot.

Paul David Faloon admitted seven offences arising from the theft of a bakery van and subsequent efforts made to return the vehicle for cash.

Judge Sandra Crawford accepted that Faloon was not involved in the initial hijacking of the Mercedes van, but he was caught behind the wheel of the stolen vehicle following a police chase.

Faloon, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, was handed a 34-month sentence and was informed that he will spend 17 months in prison, with the remainder spent on supervised licence upon his release.

His offending is linked to the hijacking of a bakery delivery van, which was stolen at knifepoint in the Ladybrook area of Belfast on the morning of December 20, 2014.

During the hijacking - which the court heard Faloon was not charged with - the van driver was forced to hand over his keys.

Following the theft of his van, the driver was able to alert his boss, who then called the driver’s mobile phone which was still in the now stolen vehicle.

During a series of phone calls, the mobile was passed between two men in the van.

Belfast Crown Court heard that during these calls a demand for £1,000 was made.

A proscribed organisation was mentioned and a threat was made to the van owner’s family. The robbers then reduced the demand to £150.

Faloon pleaded guilty to a charge of blackmail on the basis that he did not personally talk to the van owner, but was guilty on the grounds of joint enterprise.

An arrangement was then made between the van owner and those in the van to meet at a petrol station on the Springfield Road to exchange the van for money.

In the meantime, police had been alerted to the unfolding situation, and when they made efforts to stop the van which were unsuccessful, a police chase ensued.

The van, being driven by Faloon, was driven dangerously on several roads.

It eventually crashed into a ditch and Faloon and a co-accused were arrested.

Passing sentence, Judge Crawford said she accepted that Faloon’s behaviour was “foolhardy” and “spur of the moment”.