Northern Ireland

Bail granted over son's Sky television dance role

Belfast High Court
Image caption The bail application was heard at Belfast High Court

A Belfast man accused of blackmailing a businessman has been granted temporary bail so his son can take part in a dance competition for Sky TV.

John Patrick Clarke was given weekend release to look after a younger child while his partner goes to London with their son for "Got to Dance".

Mr Clarke, 35, of Ardglen Place is accused of a plot to menace the alleged victim into handing over £11,000.

A judge said Mr Clarke could only leave his home in an emergency.

According to the prosecution, men claiming to be republican paramilitaries targeted the businessman, who can only be named as Witness A by court order.

They threatened to subject him to a punishment shooting if he did not supply the cash, it was claimed.

The alleged victim has been put on a witness protection scheme after co-operating with police.

Three men have been charged following an operation which involved a swoop on the city's Markets area last September.

Mr Clarke, who faces two counts of blackmail, was arrested two months later.

He sought compassionate bail to look after his 12-week-old child while his partner accompanies their older son to the televised competition.

Police have confirmed the boy's involvement with the dance team, the court was told.

Lawyers for Mr Clarke had argued that no other family members were in good enough health to look after his family for the duration of the trip.

They also questioned the credibility of Witness A, claiming he was being investigated over money laundering allegations.

After requesting medical details on members of Mr Clarke's family, Mr Justice Treacy today granted his compassionate bail application.

As well as ordering the accused to remain at home, he was banned from contacting any co-accused or witnesses in the case.

Mr Clarke was also told he can only use the telephone to contact relatives.