Blackmail revision notes

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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 ­
a that he has reasonable grounds for making the demand and
b that the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand.
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 are 1 the unwarranted demand made by the blackmailer, and 2 the
menaces used by the blackmailer.
The `unwarranted demand' can be express or implied. The defendant may demand openly or
suggest implicitly that the victim must fulfil a demand to which the defendant has no legal entitlement,
then the demand will be unwarranted. In Collister and Warhurst (1955) two policeman, the
defendants, implicitly threatened to report the victim for a sexual offence. Although the policemen
used the words, "Remember, sir, I am now making an appeal to your benevolence," it was clear
they were demanding payment for not reporting the offence. It is, of course, up to the jury, taking all
the evidence into consideration, to decide whether or not the defendant's conduct amounts to
A demand is made when a defendant has done all he can to communicate the demand. In Treacy v
DPP (1971), the demand was made when a letter was posted. This principle can be applied to
sending an email or a text, assuming there is no evidence to suggest the message has not been
The demand must be unwarranted, i.e. the defendant is not legally entitled to whatever he is
demanding. For example, a demand for money legally owed to the defendant by the victim would
not be viewed as `unwarranted' because the defendant would believe he had reasonable ground for
making the demand. However, this does not entitle the defendant to make the demand with
The word `menaces' has a broad interpretation. As Lord Wright stated in Thorne v. Motor
Trade Association (1937): "the word menace... is not limited to threats of violence, but as
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."

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The effect of the menaces but be such that a reasonable person would be so influenced or fearful
that the demand would be met. However, if the threat is made to someone who is known by the
defendant to be particularly timid (Garwood, 1987), then the jury are entitled to assume these
menaces amount to the actus reus of blackmail.…read more


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