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Extortion with Threats to Kill

– section 27 of the Crimes Act 1958

The Police will charge you with extortion with threats to kill if they believe you demanded something from someone and you threaten to kill them if they do not meet your demand.

The threat does not have to be explicit; it can be an indirect threat.

The offence is made out if a reasonable person would understand that a demand is being made. The threat must be one of death and nothing less.

A demand made with a threat to injure is a separate offence.
This offence is an indictable offence and is dealt with in the County Court.
The legislation: Extortion With Threats to Kill
Section 27 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) states:

A person who makes a demand of another person—

  1. with a threat to kill or inflict injury on a person (other than the offender or an accomplice of the offender); or
  2. with a threat in circumstances where, if the threat were carried out, the life of a person (other than the offender or an accomplice of the offender) would be endangered—
is guilty of an indictable offence.

Penalty: Level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).

Some examples of this offence
  • Telling someone to give you money or you will kill them if they don’t.
  • Telling someone to give you money while pointing at a weapon such as a knife or gun.
  • Sending someone a text message or an email telling them that you will kill them if they don’t do as you say.
  • Sending someone a picture of you holding a weapon and telling them to give you money or property.
  • A drug dealer demands payment from a user and threatens to kill him if he does not pay.
  • A man blackmails another man and demands secret information. If he doesn’t receive the information he says he will kill the other man.
The elements
The Prosecution must satisfy the following elements beyond reasonable doubt to prove an someone has extorted another with threats to kill:

  1. you made a demand;
  2. you accompanied the demand with a threat to kill; and
  3. you intended to make the other person believe that the threat will be carried out if the demand is not met.
“Can they prove you threatened to kill someone?”
Mental elements
The Prosecution does not have to prove that the complainant thought that you would carry out the threat or felt alarmed. They only have to prove that you intended to make the complainant believe that you would carry out the threat whether you were actually going to do it or not.
  • You did not make a threat to kill, just to injure or hurt.
  • The context of your comments would not cause a reasonable person to believe you were serious.
  • You did not demand anything.
There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.
This is a serious offence which attracts up to 15 years in gaol.
Sentencing in the higher courts
From 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016, the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria heard a total of 24 cases involving 46 charges of Extortion With Threats to Kill. Most of these cases resulted in a prison sentence at 58.3%. Other sentences imposed were: Community Correction Order (16.7%), wholly suspended sentence (12.5%), partially suspended sentence (8.3%), and fine (4.2%).

Of the prison terms imposed, the most frequent was for 3 < 4 years (28.6%) although the longest period given was for 6 < 7 years (14.3%).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

[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) : s 27 – extortion with threat to kill or injure < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_27.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >