Blackmail
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Blackmail. Lesson Objectives. I will be able to state the definition of blackmail I will be able to explain the actus reus and mens rea of blackmail I will be able to explain cases that illustrate the law on blackmail I will be able to apply the rules to a given situation. Introduction.

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Blackmail

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Blackmail

Blackmail


Lesson objectives

Lesson Objectives

  • I will be able to state the definition of blackmail

  • I will be able to explain the actus reus and mens rea of blackmail

  • I will be able to explain cases that illustrate the law on blackmail

  • I will be able to apply the rules to a given situation


Introduction

Introduction

  • Blackmail involves a threat made so that a person does an act against his will, or in order to obtain the person’s money or property.

  • It is a threat from the blackmailer to do something for not agreeing to the demand.

  • The threat doesn’t have to be something illegal and doesn’t even have to be true.


Definition

Definition

  • Blackmail is defined in s21 of the Theft Act 1968 as:

    1) A person is guilty of blackmail if, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces; and for this purpose a demand with menaces is unwarranted unless the person making it does so in the belief-

  • That he has reasonable grounds for making the demand; and

  • That the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand


Blackmail

2) The nature of the act or omission demanded is immaterial, and it is also immaterial whether the menaces relate to action to be taken by the person making the demand

The actus reus of blackmail, therefore, has two aspects:

1 – unwarranted demand

2 – menaces

The mens rea of blackmail has 3 aspects:

1 – an intention to make a demand with menaces

2 – doing so with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another

3 – either

  • A) not believing he has reasonable grounds for making the demand, or

  • B) not believing that the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand


Blackmail

  • There are, therefore, a number of points that need to be considered for the offence of blackmail. These are:

  • What amounts to an unwarranted demand?

  • What amounts to ‘menaces’?

  • The defendant's view to gain or loss

  • The defendant's belief as to reasonable grounds for making the demand

  • The defendant’s belief that use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand


What amounts to an unwarranted demand

What amounts to an unwarranted demand?

  • The demand can be made either expressly, or impliedly. Usually the demand is made expressly, such as an oral or written demand for a sum of money for not exposing some possible scandal. It also appears that the demand can be made impliedly:

  • Collister and Warhurst (1955) – the demand in blackmail can be implied as well as expressed; it will be implied when a jury (the reasonable man) can see from the attitude, actions and circumstances that the defendant is making a demand


Blackmail

  • The demand is made when the defendant has done all he can to communicate the demand – Treacy v DPP (1971) – a demand is made when the defendant has done all he can to communicate the demand

  • The demand must be unwarranted. This means that it must be for something that the defendant is not legally entitled. Thus, a demand is not unwarranted if it is for money legally owing to the defendant. It would also not be unwarranted if the claimed debt turned out not to be legally enforceable. This is because the defendant would believe he had reasonable grounds for making the demand.


What amounts to menaces

What amounts to ‘menaces’?

  • A menace can be threats of violence, including threats of any action detrimental to or unpleasant to the person addressed. It may also include a warning that, in certain events, such action is intended

  • Thorne v Motor Trade Association (1937) – this case provides an explanation as to meaning of the word menaces (see above)


Blackmail

  • It is also the case that the effect of the demand must be that the reasonable person would be influenced or fearful so that the demand was likely to be met. However, if the person to whom the threat is made is known by the defendant to be particularly timid, then threats which d not affect the reasonable person can still be taken as menaces – Garwood (1987)

  • An example of threats that do not amount to menaces can be seen in the case of Harry (1974) – the case involved a letter to shopkeepers on a rag week procession route that sought contributions to the charities to avoid ‘inconvenience’


The defendant s view to gain or loss

The defendant’s view to gain or loss

  • In s34(2) of the Theft Act 1968 there are definitions:

    2. For purposes of this Act –

    a) ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ are to be construed as extending only to gain or loss in money or other property, but as extending to any such gain or loss whether temporary or permanent; and –

  • ‘gain’ includes a gain by keeping what one has, as well as a gain by getting what one has not; and

  • ‘loss’ includes a loss by not getting what one might get, as well as a loss by parting with what one has

    This means that the intended result of the blackmail involves some money or property rather than something of no monetary value such as a kiss. Things of economic value, such as a morphine injection to get pain relief from a doctor, are sufficient for blackmail – Bevans (1988)


Blackmail

The defendant’s belief as to reasonable grounds for making the demands, and that the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand

The key things about these defences to a charge of blackmail is that the defendant believed there were reasonable grounds for making the demand or believing that the use of menaces is a proper means of reinforcing his demand.

The belief must be genuinely held and can be a moral rather than a legal belief, but a belief that would generally be viewed as immoral is no defence – Harvey (1981)

Exam Qs


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