Man '˜used INLA to threaten brother to hand over farm'

A man allegedly used republican paramilitaries in attempts to menace his brother into signing over a family farm, the High Court has heard.

Wednesday, 4th July 2018, 3:48 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:06 pm

Prosecutors claimed apparent INLA representatives turned up at the victim’s offices in Londonderry threatening that if he refused his children would “grow up without a father”.

The 46-year-old defendant, who cannot be identified, denies a charge of conspiracy to commit blackmail between March and June this year.

During a bail hearing Crown lawyer James Johnston set out a background of dispute over property bequeathed to the accused’s siblings following the death of their father.

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“Despite having helped his father operate the family farm and being promised the land, the applicant did not benefit from the estate and that has led to certain friction,” Mr Johnston said.

The court was told the complainant was challenged about the situation during an encounter in a car on March 23.

It was claimed that a woman in the back seat introduced herself as being in the INLA and told him not to worry about an ex-wife benefiting from any handover of the land.

The inference from the conversation was that the republican grouping would “sort out” the former spouse, according to the prosecution.

A second alleged incident on May 16 involved two men arriving at the complainant’s work in the city and reaching him handwritten notes.

Mr Johnston said one message warned: “When these two members of the INLA leave these offices under no circumstances contact police.”

The second note allegedly stated: “You are to sign over the property... to (your brother) or your children will grow up without a father.

“Go to the police and your home will be blown up.”

Mr Justice Horner was told the men then took back the notes and left the building.

Two weeks later the defendant allegedly approached his brother in the street and shouted: “The s*** is about to hit the fan – you don’t mess with these boys.”

Police were contacted following a final incident on June 19 where the complainant was said to have recorded a conversation with another two men who called at his offices.

“The males didn’t identify themselves as being associated with any particular grouping, but they told him he had two days to sign the land over to his brother or else his home would be visited,” Mr Johnston added.

During interviews the accused accepted there were issues surrounding the property being bequeathed to his siblings, but denied ever menacing his brother.

Opposing bail, Mr Johnston contended: “If one takes the case at its height, the fact these are family members has not prohibited the applicant from allegedly using paramilitaries to threaten them.”

Defence counsel stressed her client has no connections with any outlawed organisations.

“To his mind these allegations are all fabricated,” she added.

Granting bail to an address outside Londonderry, the judge banned him from entering the city or making contact with his siblings.