Businessman attempted to blackmail archbishops

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The Independent Online
A BUSINESSMAN was jailed for 18 months at the Old Bailey yesterday for his part in a plot to blackmail the Roman Catholic Church with false allegations of sex abuse by priests.

Mark Callaghan and a friend compiled a mailing list of bishops and archbishops and sent letters demanding pounds 550,000.

'It was well-written and a thinly disguised threat that unless the money was paid . . . the authors would go to the media or commence proceedings against unnamed priests and the Roman Catholic Church,' said Michael Wood, for the prosecution.

One of the letters was received by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Derek Worlock. Although he thought it was the work of a crank, 'he was caused considerable concern about the letter's obvious sensitivity . . .', Mr Wood said. The matter was referred to the Archbishops' Council and the police.

Callaghan, 35, of Tottenham, north London, who runs a pest control business, admitted conspiring to commit blackmail with another man, who is now in Thailand.

The pair had composed their mailing list from a Roman Catholic directory containing names and addresses of leading church figures.