Two Belfast men have been jailed for offences linked to a loyalist paramilitary blackmailing scheme.
David Pollins, 32, from Lower Rockview Street was handed an 18-month sentence while 34-year-old David Moore, from Monarch Parade, received a 15-month sentence.
The pair will serve half their sentences in prison, with the remaining half on supervised licence upon their release.
Due to time already served on remand, both men are expected to be released soon.
They were arrested after they approached a building contractor on a south Belfast site. The pair initially asked for scrap metal, before a demand was made for £1,000. During these demands for money, reference was made to the UDA.
‘Witness A’ reported the blackmail to police after it emerged staff at the building site were approached at the end of March 2013.
Telephone numbers were exchanged between the pair and Witness A, who contacted the PSNI straight away.
A police surveillance operation was launched, and over the course of the operation Moore and Pollins, and Witness A, spoke on the phone, sent text messages and also had several face-to-face meetings.
During one of these conversations, Witness A was told that if she paid protection money, there would be ‘no bother’ from anyone else.
Cash was handed over on several occasions, and the pair were arrested on the Boucher Road on the day a payment of £250 was handed over.
Both Moore and Pollins admitted a charge of professing to belong to the UDA on dates between June 2013 and September 2014.
They also both admitted a blackmailing charge, namely making an unwarranted demand of £1,000 from Witness A – a businesswoman – with menaces, while Pollins pleaded guilty to an additional blackmail charge.
Passing sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that while blackmail was a serious offence which warranted a prison sentence, he considered Pollin and Moore’s offending as at the “lower end of the scale”.
Judge Kerr said: “I have regard to the fact there was no specific threat used, there was no specific violence used, and there was no damage caused to the property concerned.”
Both men were also placed on the counter-terrorism notification list for 10 years.