Blackmail

– section 87 of the Crimes Act 1958

The charge of Blackmail is usually laid when someone tries to force another person to do something by threatening them.

Examples of Blackmail
  • Someone demands $20,000 in exchange for not publishing naked photos of another person online.
  • Someone says he will poison his ex-partner’s dog if she doesn’t agree to restart their relationship.
  • A builder threatens to hurt the family of an ex-client that refuses to pay a bill for dangerously faulty construction work.
What are some of the possible defences to a Blackmail charge?
  • There was no intention to threaten the other person.
  • There were reasonable grounds to demand that the other person do something, and the threat was a lawful way of reinforcing the demand.

 

Our client told a woman that he would reveal their affair to her husband unless she continued to have sex with him. He pleaded guilty to blackmail.

 

Questions in cases like this
  • Was there a breakdown of communication?
  • Was there a legal and reasonable expectation that the other person do something?
What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

Blackmail is a serious offence but can come in many forms. More serious examples would often attract gaol terms.
prison penalty sentencing
 

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with Blackmail

The maximum penalty for Blackmail is imprisonment for 15 years.

It is an indictable charge, which means it must be heard in the County Court.

 

“Was there actually a threat?”

 

What is the legal definition of Blackmail?

The legal definition of Blackmail has 5 basic parts:

  1. Someone demands something from another person;
  2. The demand is made in order to make a gain, or to cause a loss to the other person;
  3. The demand is made with threats;
  4. The threats are real; and
  5. The demand is unreasonable.
Legislation

The section that covers this offence is section 87 of the Crimes Act 1958.1

Elements of the offence

For an accused to be found guilty of Blackmail, the following elements must be proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused made any unwarranted demand with menaces, and
  2. The accused, in making said demand, had a view to gain for himself or for another, or had an intent to cause loss to another.

Sentencing in the higher courts

In the higher courts of Victoria, 47 cases (86 charges) of Blackmail were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2018. Majority of these cases resulted in Community Correction Order (46.8%) and Imprisonment (44.7%). The remaining few cases led to Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal (4.3%), Wholly Suspended Sentence (2.1%), and Fine (2.1%).

Of the cases that led to imprisonment, majority fell under the “0 < 1 year” category (42.9%). The longest prison term imposed was between 5 and 6 years but this was least imposed at only 4.8%. For Community Correction Orders (CCO), majority of the cases that led to CCO fell under the “2 < 3 years” category (45.4%). The longest CCO term imposed was between 4 and 5 years (4.6%).1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Other important resources

 



[1] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SACStat Higher Courts – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic): s 87 – blackmail.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_87.html (accessed September 2, 2019).
[2] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Abolished Sentencing Orders.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/abolished-sentencing-orders (accessed September 2, 2019).