Blackmailers who targeted man in Stevenage are jailed for at least five years each

Blackmailers Michael Atkinson, Royston Barnes, Paul Owens and Patrick Oliver (left to right) have be

Blackmailers Michael Atkinson, Royston Barnes, Paul Owens and Patrick Oliver (left to right) have been jailed for at least five years each after targeting a man in Stevenage. Pictures: Herts police - Credit: Archant

Four blackmailers from the North-West who targeted a man in Stevenage have been jailed for at least five years each.

Michael Atkinson, 43, Royston Barnes, 53, Patrick Oliver, 32, and Paul Owens, 33, were all found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail by a jury at Huntingdon Crown Court on Thursday, following a three-week trial.

Deputy Circuit Judge Graham Arran sentenced Atkinson, of Newlyn Gardens in Warrington, to six years behind bars.

Barnes, of Hough Green Road in Widnes, was sentenced to five years – with the same sentence given to Oliver, of Bassenthwaite Avenue in Liverpool, and Owens, of Banbury Avenue in Halewood, Merseyside.

Owens had earlier pleaded guilty to possessing just under 2kg of amphetamine sulphate, better known as speed, with intent to supply – for which he was handed an extra eight-month jail term, to run consecutively.

Prosecutors dropped a charge against Atkinson of threatening to destroy or damage property.

The quartet had originally been indicted on a charge of kidnapping following the crime last year, but were found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail.