Man accused of blackmail ‘claimed to be from the UDA’

Peter Joseph McCormack received a 27-month sentence
Peter Joseph McCormack received a 27-month sentence

A 32-year-old Belfast man accused of professing to be a member of the UDA while allegedly blackmailing a building site manager was yesterday freed on a total of £6,000 Crown Court bail.

Belfast Crown Court heard that David Pollins was of two men who visited a city building site in March last year and demanded that they be allowed to take scrap from the site.

The court also heard that on a number of occasions Pollins, from Broadway, Belfast, and his alleged accomplice claimed to represent the UDA and that they wanted scrap from the site, and or a security job.

On another occasion Pollins allegedly “alluded to being in the UDA”, telling a site manager: “Once you’re in, you’re in.”

Eventually “a financial understanding” was reached, and although there was a demand for £1,000, sums ranging from £250 to £500 were paid over – but in September last year, “police intervened and the accused was arrested”.

A lawyer for Pollins claimed it was not “the classical case of blackmail”, in that there were no direct threats of physical violence.

He added that to date Pollins has served the equivalent of a 30-month sentence, but was unlikely to get a trial in the near future given the present impasse over Legal Aid.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that High Court bail was refused to Pollins in the past, but circumstances have changed and the position he is in over his trial is not of his making, and that delay in itself can be a factor.

Judge Kerr said that in addition, since his arrest, Pollins had been granted compassionate bail on several occasions, which he honoured, and that this “tips the balance in this case”.

Pollins, who must abide by a 9pm curfew each evening, was granted his own bail of £250, with one surety of £750, plus a second surety of £5,000, to be secured by depositing a set of property deeds with the court.