TWO blackmailers have been jailed after threatening to out an innocent man as a paedophile unless he paid them £16,000.

Joseph James and Martin Hughes sent their victim a barrage of threatening texts and phone calls, claiming that they would ‘post everywhere around Warrington’ that he was a child sex offender unless he handed over the cash.

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On Friday, September 14, the pair were jailed at Chester Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to blackmail.

The court heard that James and Hughes, both from Liverpool, harassed their victim over several weeks between December 8 and 31 last year.

He received a letter saying that he owed a ‘large sum of money’ before receiving a phone call from a man with a ‘strong Liverpool accent’ telling him he was a ‘dead man walking’.

A text sent by 32-year-old Hughes later that day said: “I don’t know this is all about, but I hope you get it sorted - I would hate for anything to happen to your parents.”

While the victim was on holiday, the tyres of his car and his parents’ motorhome were slashed.

He received further texts, saying: “We’re not going anywhere - that’s just the start.

“We’ve got loads more terrorism for you.

“It’s getting posted up everywhere around Warrington that you’re a nonce.

“We’re going to let everyone in the Butcher’s Arms know that you’re a paedo.

“You’ll end up tying a rope around your neck.

“If the £16k isn’t there by 6pm, every house on your close will get a letter posted through it saying that you’re a paedo.”

Hughes and 41-year-old James were then arrested, with the latter having been in custody since.

The court heard that the campaign of blackmail had had a ‘significant effect’ on the victim’s life.

James, who was described as ‘mentally unstable and living a chaotic lifestyle’, was jailed for 18 months by judge Roger Dutton.

The convicted drug dealer, who has three previous offences to his name, will be released in the near future due to the time he has already served.

Hughes, who the court heard ‘used alcohol and drug to prop up his mess of a life’, received one year and nine months behind bars.

Sentencing, judge Dutton said: “The offence of blackmail is a particularly insidious one which has historically and justifiably always been dealt with by imprisonment.

“This case involved the sending of messages designed to spread lies about the victim’s private life.

“There was a course of bullying, nasty, insidious and upsetting messages.

“Any victim of this kind would be terrified, as I’m quite sure this man was.

“This was a serious and vile offence, and an immediate imprisonment is all that can possibly follow.”