12 March 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Fear in the village
'UVF top boy' rules by intimidation in loyalist area, court is told

12 March 2005

AN alleged UVF "top boy" rules the loyalist Village area of south Belfast with fear and locals are afraid to speak out against him, the High Court was told yesterday.

The claim was made by a Crown lawyer opposing a bail application by Albert Hodgen (33), from Vernon Street, who denied intimidating two teenage brothers into leaving their home and assaulting one of them.

Barrister Charles McKay said Hodgen approached the boys and demanded the return of property which, he said, had been stolen from a friend's house.

When they protested that they had nothing to do with the burglary, Hodgen threatened to break their arms and legs.

It was alleged Hodgen referred to a punishment attack on an acquaintance of the brothers whose limbs were broken and said if they did not return the property by five o'clock they would suffer the same fate.

"These boys are afraid to return to their home and say this man rules the Village area through fear and no one will speak out against him," said Mr McKay.

"They have good reason to be afraid as their father was blinded in an assault in January and is still recovering."

Lord Justice Sheil asked if the boys' assertions were supported by police.

Mr McKay said that their view was confirmed by an officer in the area who knew what was going on in his patch.

The judge said he was concerned about the risk of interference with witnesses and refused bail.

Hodgen denies intimidating the two teenagers into leaving their homes. He also denies a further charge of attacking one of the teenagers.

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