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The Law of Blackmail
 
 
 
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The offence of blackmail is set out in s.21 Theft Act 1968. Under the Act, blackmail8 Handbag Black IN WHITE IN WHITE q7wFtnIP consists of making an unwarranted demand with menaces with a view to making a gain or causing a loss. By Rucksack Black TIMBERLAND bumbag Rucksack amp; bumbag TIMBERLAND amp; Black TIMBERLAND amp; bumbag Rucksack s.21(3) Theft Act 1968, the maximum sentence for blackmail is 14 years.
 
 
 
Elements of blackmail
 
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To be liable for blackmail the defendant must:
 
 
  • Make a demand
  • With menaces
  • The demand must be unwarranted
  • have a view to make a gain for himself or another or have intent to cause a loss to another
 
 
 
Demand
 
 
The demand for the purposes of blackmail may be express or implied:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Where a demand is made by post, the demand is deemed to have been made, the moment it is posted:
 
 
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Treacy v DPP [1971] AC 537  Case summary
 
 
Thus there is no requirement that the demand be communicated to the victim for liability for blackmail to arise. A demand could therefore be made by an e-mail that is unread, a text message not read, left on an answer machine or spoken but not heard.
 
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The demand is a continuing act and continues until the threat is withdrawn:
 
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Menaces
 
 
For liability for blackmail to arise, the demand must be accompanied by menaces.
 
 
The menaces may be express or implied:
 
 
R v Lawrence and Pomroy (1971) 57 Cr App R 64  Case summary
 
 
 
 
It has long been held that 'menaces' for blackmail, extends beyond threats of physical violence:
 
 
 
 
R v Tomlinson [1895] 1 QB 706  Case summary
 
 
 
 
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However, 'menaces' is a strong word suggesting a high degree of coercion to give rise to criminal liability for blackmail:
 
 
 
R v Harry [1974] Crim LR 32  Case summary
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The phrase 'menacing pressure' is often used to demonstrate the level of severity required to amount to blackmail:
 
 
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There is no requirement that the one who is making the demand is to be the one carrying out the menaces nor is it a requirement that the person making the demand is in a position to carryout the threatened action.
 
 
 
 
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The test as to whether a particular threat amounts to menaces is objective:
 
 
 
 
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However, where the victim is particularly vulnerable or of a timid nature the jury may find menaces existed, where the defendant was aware of the affect of his actions on the victim.
 
 
 
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Unwarranted demand
 
 
 
Under Rebecca Black Hardware Body Bag Leather Minkoff with Mac Cross Mini Black PPHprqRw Theft Act 1968, for the purposes of blackmail, a demand with menaces is unwarranted unless the person making the demand believes both:
 
(a) that they had reasonable grounds for making the demand and
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(b) that the use of menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand.
 
 
 
 
 
 
It is the defendant's belief that matters, not whether in fact  they are entitled to the money or property demanded. This is decided by a purely subjective test. However, where the defendant threatens criminal action and knows their threatened actions amount to a crime, they can not believe the demand was 'proper.'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An example of a warranted demand:
 
 
 
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With a view to make a gain or intent to cause loss
 
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R v Bevans (1988) 87 Cr App R 64 Case summary
 
 
 
The gain or loss need only be temporary. Gain includes keeping what one has and loss includes not getting what one might get.
 
 
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The Law of blackmail
 
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