A Billericay meat wholesaler, owed nearly £5,000 by a restaurant that went broke, has been convicted of threatening to have the chef-owner of the restaurant "clubbed" by Irish gypsies if he didn't pay-up the money.
Now he has been put under an electronically tagged curfew and left with a bill of nearly £1,000 in compensation and court costs.
Trouble began when L & O Meats, of 32 Saffron Court, Southfields, Basildon discovered the company which owned ‘1 Blenheim Terrace', a St. John's Wood brasserie, had gone into liquidation earlier this year.
Mr Shaerf, who opened the venture with two colleagues from the Ivy, told Hammersmith Magistrates Court on Friday that he received a call from an angry Gibson on January 17, demanding the outstanding bill be settled or he would send "people" around to the restaurant.
"I was scared and paranoid," said Mr. Shaerf, who conceded there was a legitimate debt.
But he continued: "There are better ways to deal with this than making threats."
He told the court Gibson was "very angry" and threatened to have him "clubbed" if the bill was not paid and received a similar sinister phone call from the defendant on 20 January.
Another call was taken by Mr. Shaerf's sous chef, Stuart White, who explained: "He was angry and demanded to know where was the money, who was responsible, where did they live and that he would pass on the debt to gypsy traveller friends to collect.
"He said that other debtors, who owed him money, were still in hospital."
Mr Shaerf made a complaint to police that he was being blackmailed and father-of-three Gibson was arrested on 21 January and taken to Charing Cross Police Station.
Gibson told the court he had inherited his 40-year-old family business from his step-father and had reduced his bill to 1 Blenheim Terrace to £2,800 by waiving his firm's profit, but was frustrated in his attempts to deal with the issue.
"I phoned Ed up to find out how we were going to recover our money, I might have been angry," he said. "I'd lost just short of £5,000 and needed to recoup my money."
He denied threatening violence or suggesting heavies would be sent to the business, explaining he was referring to an Irish debt collector he met at his son's boxing gym.
"I wanted someone to collect our money rather than go through solicitors and chuck more money at it," Gibson told the court. "There were no threats of violence.
"I said: ‘We've met people that collect money.' They're Irish and I met them at the boxing gym where I take my son. They told us they were licensed."
District Judge Mike Snow found Gibson guilty of harassment by putting Mr Shaerf in fear of violence between 16 and 21 January and sentenced him to a three-month electronically-tagged daily home curfew between 6pm and 2am.
He also ordered Gibson to pay Mr Shaerf £250 compensation, £620 court costs, a £60 witness tax and made an indefinite restraining order, prohibiting the defendant from contacting the victim and Mr White.
"I found Mr Shaerf and Mr White to be very impressive, very precise," he announced. "Careful listening to the voicemails is very revealing. What does handing the debt over mean if it doesn't mean sending someone to sort you out because they are much more ruthless?
"He asks for Mr Shaerf's home address. Why would he do that if it was not to put the frighteners on?
"I don't believe Mr Gibson. He was angry, he'd been let down and he knew it was unlikely he would get his money back and put this man in fear."
The judge told Gibson: "I can understand how frustrated you must have been when the company of Mr Shaerf went into liquidation, but it can't be condoned that you took the law into your own hands and put this man in fear."