Blackmail and Extortion Solicitors
If you, or someone you know, is facing black mail or extortion charges, take urgent expert advice from specialist criminal defence solicitors. The criminal team at Qamar Solicitors have years of experience advising and representing clients who have been charged with blackmail.
Blackmail and extortion are often very serious, particularly in the business context, and seeking specialist advice as early as possible in the investigation will give you the best chance in defending the charges. Criminal law can be complex and difficult to understand. We enable our clients to understand the nature of the charges against them, and to advise them on the best way to proceed.
What is blackmail?
The offence of blackmail under s21 of the Theft Act 1968 means making an unwarranted demand with menaces with a view to making a gain or causing a loss. The defendant must gain as a result, and the victim will suffer loss. The offence of blackmail comprises a number of elements which must be established before blackmail can be proved:
The defendant must have made a demand of the victim, threatening to do something if the demand is not agreed to or carried out. The threat does not even have to be something illegal. For instance, the threat may be to demand thousands of pounds from the victim to prevent publication of details of past affairs or criminal involvement (whether or not the facts are true).
A demand does not have to express – it can be implied from the conduct and circumstances existing at the time.
The demand can be made in writing, verbally or via digital communication such as texts or email. Where a demand has been made by post, the law says the demand has been made at the point it is posted. This means it can be made even before the intended recipient (the victim) is aware of the demand.
It follows that the victim does not have to be aware of a demand for there to be a ‘demand’ for the purposes of the offence. Therefore, a demand may be made by text or email, or via social media – and even if the victim has not read the demand, a demand has still been made. Even an unanswered voicemail message containing a demand will still amount to a ‘demand’ for the purposes of proving this element of the offence.
Blackmail via the internet amounts to internet or ‘cyber’ blackmail. If the internet or social media are an element of the offence you are charged with, speak to our expert criminal solicitors without delay.
Withdrawing a demand is possible: the demand continually exists for the purposes of the offence until it has been withdrawn.
The demand must be made with menaces – ie a threat to do something if the victim does not agree to meet the demands made. Menaces requires enough coercion to force the victim to do something, or to take a specific course of action. This often takes the form of threats of physical violence, but can also take other forms such as threats to reveal secrets, or to publish private material.
Menaces (or threats) can be made by someone other than the individual making the demand. The offence does not require it to be the same individual.
As in the case of a demand, menaces can be express or implied.
The demand will be unwarranted unless the defendant genuinely believes:
- He or she had reasonable grounds for making the demand, and
- The use of menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand
The test for proving these two elements is subjective, which means it’s the actual, genuinely held belief of the defendant not what a reasonable person might believe. For instance, reasonable threats by legal organisations to start court proceedings to pursue unpaid debts if the debts are not settled within a stated time period will not amount to blackmail (or extortion – see below).
Unless the defendant can prove the above, the demand will be unwarranted.
‘With a view to make a gain or intent to cause a loss’
A gain or loss in this context relates only to money or property. This means, for example, that demands of a sexual nature will not satisfy the requirements of the offence of blackmail.
Where a defendant’s genuinely held belief that he or she had reasonable grounds for making demands, and the menaces used were a proper means of reinforcing such demands, can be established, a conviction may be avoided.
What is extortion?
Extortion involves using threats of physical harm to another for the purposes of obtaining money, property or services. It is most commonly carried out in a commercial setting.
Protection rackets invariably involve extortion.
Prosecution and sentencing
Blackmail and extortion are both triable only in the Crown Court and the potentially harsh sanctions demonstrate how seriously the two offences are treated: the maximum sentence that can be imposed on conviction is 14 years.
How can we help?
We have years of experience in defending clients charged with blackmail and extortion, both low level and very serious.. Where necessary, we will aggressively defend our clients against unmerited charges. If you have been accused of any these offences, or know anyone that has, contact the criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors immediately for urgent specialist legal advice – whether at the police station or after.
Contact Qamar Criminal Defence Solicitor Team for more details.