Blackmail is commonly the demand for money or some other benefit from someone in return for not revealing embarrassing, compromising, or sensitive information to spouses, family, friends, or the public.
Is blackmail a crime?
It is criminal and is a statutory offence under Section 21, the Theft Act of 1968. It’s not the act of revealing the information that is criminal, but the demand for compensation to conceal it. If convicted, the maximum sentence could be 14 years in prison.
What is the legal definition of blackmail?
To be prosecuted and convicted of blackmail, the following factors must be present:
- A demand.
- The demand is made with menace.
- The goal is to benefit oneself (or another) or cause a loss for another.
How do the courts define a demand?
The Theft Act of 1968 leaves it open to interpretation. The important feature is that it is clear there is a demand, even if the requestor tries to frame is as a simple request. If this is unclear, it’s left up to the jury or judge to determine.
Demands can be made verbally, in writing, or through text, email or social media.
What are menaces?
Menaces are serious threats that cause the victim to feel intimidated or influenced. However, it can still be considered menaces even if the victim does not feel threatened, as long as the threat would be intimidating to a normal person.
Demands made with menaces are not always considered to be blackmail. To be considered blackmail, the demand must be threatening and made with a goal of gain to oneself or another, or loss to someone else.
Sextortion is an increasingly common type of blackmail.
What are the defences used for blackmail?
A requestor may have a defence against the crime of blackmail if they can prove they had reasonable grounds to make their demands. The defendant may be proven not guilty if it’s found they were acting appropriately.