CONVICTED: Ronald William Hawkshaw pleaded guilty to extortion at Warwick District Court this week.
CONVICTED: Ronald William Hawkshaw pleaded guilty to extortion at Warwick District Court this week. Elyse Wurm

EXTORTION: Threats to break man's legs used to recover debt

A PRATTEN man who once helped save lives in the 2011 floods has fronted court after threatening to break a man's legs to reclaim an unpaid debt.

Ronald William Hawkshaw and his son Jack William Hawkshaw both pleaded guilty to extortion at Warwick District Court this week, after they worked together to elicit $4500 from a 51-year-old man in October 2015.

But the court heard that unlike some extortion cases the debt was believed to be real, as Ronald attempted to get back a loan he had given to his friend after he received a huge insurance pay out.

Defence lawyer Jessica Goldie said Hawkshaw and his victim were previously friends, but the man was an alcoholic and Hawkshaw lent him $6000 when the bank was going to repossess his house.

The court heard Hawkshaw, 45, didn't think he'd see the money again, but three years later he heard that his friend's house had burnt down and he had received a $130,000 pay out.

Ms Goldie said Hawkshaw tried to chase up the man for his loan on multiple occasions, but he was worried he would be drinking away all the money.

"It made him more frustrated that he had helped him out at a time when he needed money but when Mr Hawkshaw was in a position that he wasn't financially well off himself the complainant wasn't willing to help him," she said.

Crown prosecutor Gary Churchill explained that Ronald told the victim he would pick him up with Jack and take him to the bank to withdraw $4000, if he didn't comply he would break his legs.

Mr Churchill said the next day the trip to the bank was completed, but about 10 days later the pair again picked the victim up and took him to an ATM on Palmerin St so he could withdraw a further $500.

The court heard Ronald told the man on that occasion that if he didn't go, he'd "smash the man's head in" and when he didn't get a full $1000 at the ATM he threatened to trash the caravan park where the man was staying.

Mr Churchill said Jack, who is now 21 and works in Uluru, drove his dad to the meetings with the victim.

"His presence acted as some encouragement to his father and to the complainant's intimidation," Mr Churchill said.

Judge Gregory Koppenol said Ronald behaved poorly and was foolish in the way he recovered the debt.

"Debts are recovered by legal process not by threats of violence," he said.

But Judge Koppenol acknowledged there was no actual violence inflicted and Ronald had spent 43 days in custody after committing the offence.

Ronald Hawkshaw was sentenced to 18 months' jail but was released on parole immediately, while Jack was given six months' jail but the sentence was suspended.