30/05/2008

Two Jailed For Builders' Protection Bid

Two Co Antrim men who pretended to be paramilitaries have been jailed for their role in a so-called protection racket.

William McTaggart (38) of Carmeen Drive admitted blackmailing a building contractor who was carrying out work in The Diamond area of the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey, earlier this year.

His co-accused, James Victor Jameson (47) from Shore Crescent in north Belfast, was also jailed - both of them for four and a half years after each pleading guilty to the same offence.

Jailing the pair last Thursday, Belfast Crown Court judge Tom Burgess said there was the "implication of paramilitary involvement" in the case.

Court heard how the building contractor was told to pay £15,000 so that work could continue at the site without incident, but that he contacted the police who undertook a two-month surveillance operation.

McTaggart and Jameson were arrested on March 8, shortly after the contractor had handed over £1,000 in cash to two men in the nearby Ballyduff estate.

In addition to their jail sentences, both men were also given 18 month probation terms to be served on release.

(BMcC)

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