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?

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with Blackmail

The maximum penalty for Blackmail is 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

prison penalty sentencing

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.

Sentencing outcomes in the higher courts2

From July 2011 to June 2016, there were a total of 50 cases of Blackmail that were sentenced in the higher courts of Victoria. The majority of these cases led to Community Correction Order (40%) and Imprisonment (38%).

Other sentencing results include: Wholly Suspended Sentence (8%), Partially Suspended Sentence (6%), Adjourned Undertaking / Discharge / Dismissal (4%), Community-Based Order (2%), and Fine (2%).

The longest prison term imposed was between 8 and 9 years but this was given in only 5.3% of the charges that led to imprisonment. Most of the charges that received a prison term were sentenced to less than two years (52.6%).

If in County Court

Other important resources

 


[1] Crimes Act 1958 – Section 87

(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 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.
(3) A person guilty of blackmail is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum)

[2] SACStat Higher Courts: Blackmail (1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016)