A LOAN shark attacked one customer with an extendable baton and threatened another with it when he thought they still owed him money.

Joaqim Boal kept such poor records of his deals that he did not know when people were paid up, Teesside Crown Court heard today (Thursday, August 21).

The unlicensed money-lender vowed to break one woman's legs, and used the police baton to smash a living room window at a customer's home.

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He was arrested after his victims complained to police about his bullying and intimidation, prosecutor Simon Mortimer told the court.

Boal told police he carried the weapon to show people he was serious, and said: "If they keep messing with me, I will break their legs."

He was jailed for 28 months after he admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm, criminal damage and two charges of blackmail.

The 52-year-old also pleaded guilty to three counts of running a consumer credit business without a licence and money laundering.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, told him he had targeted the most vulnerable in society and charged them "extortionate" interest rates.

Typically, people borrowed between £300 and £500 - and they had added to their debts £10 for every £100, said Mr Mortimer.

Jim Withyman, mitigating, said Boal, of Lancaster Road, Hartlepool, had not set out to be a criminal but fell into it after lending colleagues cash.

"He is shocked he has committed these criminal offences," he said.

The judge told Boal: "Anybody who borrows money from loan sharks in the street is a vulnerable individual and these individuals were vulnerable because they had no recourse other than to go to people like you.

"It was not a big business by any stretch but you were targeting those that were vulnerable.

"You were charging extortionate interest.

"When these individuals were unable to meet that extortionate interest then matters took a turn for the worse."

The court heard that Boal, a waiter at a restaurant, had about 30 customers, and had loaned out £7,000 over two years, and was to recoup £10,000.

One woman carried on paying even though she had settled her debt because she was in fear, and believed she had repaid twice what she borrowed.