M. A. Muid Khan
Blackmail is a threat to the right of a person to lead a life he desires and generally considered to be a criminal act. Such an act is motivated by a need to manipulate or control often by people who claim good intentions in many relationships and situations. Despite having strict criminal liabilities in the English criminal law, a large number of blackmailers are not getting punishment that they deserve for the sake of justice as most of victims do not report this crime to the police. Recently, blackmail has become a widespread problem in the UK. This offence doesn't just affect everyone; it hurts most of them, too.
Some victims of emotional blackmail may perceive as being abused as normal although all forms of abuse have heavy relationship consequences. That's why in this article an attempt has been made to describe the offence, its elements and the available legal remedy to combat this offence and bring the offenders/blackmailers to justice in the light of a recent case published in all leading newspapers of England and Wales. The main purpose of this article is to create awareness in waging a legal war on blackmailers for the purpose of justice.
In a case study, a jilted secretary was jailed by the Blackfriars Crown Court for eight months for blackmailing her ex-boss to give £200,000 by bringing a false rape claim against him in the UK. This case study was published on December 14, 2015 in various national newspapers of England and Wales.
Dilrushi Mendis, 40, was appointed secretary to her ex-boss. She demanded £200,000 from him to drop a false rape claim made after he ended their affair. This blackmailer lady first cheated on her husband by engaging into extra-marital relationship with her ex-boss. They met in 2008 when she began working for him. They were both married, but an on-and-off sexual relationship began and he helped her financially.
At the time of this extra-marital affair, the blackmailer secretary's husband was in Sri Lanka waiting for entry clearance to enter the UK as her dependant husband. In September 2013, her ex-boss learned that her husband obtained entry permit and was moving to the UK. Immediately, he ended the relationship and terminated her employment.
But the mother-of-one refused to accept the relationship was over and launched a campaign against him, sending 'revenge porn' to his relatives and turning up outside his home. With a view to trapping him in her deceitful plan, in February 2014, she demanded of him to meet her at a restaurant on the Valentine's night. She also asked him - knowing he was a wealthy man - for £40,000 to £50,000 to open a hair salon. Around this time, she reported him to the police, claiming he struck her unlawfully. Later on, she admitted to her ex-boss that she lied to the police.
The story did not end there. In the first week of March 2014, she invited him to stay over. He arrived with a friend and still maintains they slept in separate rooms. Mendis, however, told police the men arrived with alcohol and she had two or three drinks before her former boss entered her room and raped her. He was in his native Sri Lanka when the complaint was made by this jilted secretary. Over the telephone, she demanded £200,000 from her ex-boss and assured that she would drop the case for the money. The ex-boss refused to pay even a single penny. As a result, he was arrested on his return to Britain in June, 2014.
The ex-boss denied the rape claim and spent three months on bail before learning there would be no charge. He then brought this criminal lady to justice claiming that he was a victim of blackmail. The prosecution proved all charges of blackmail against her. After the hearing, Judge Peter Clarke of the Blackfriars Crown Court gave her eight months' imprisonment as punishment for committing the offence blackmail. She was also ordered to complete 80 hours of community service.
The judgment gives clear signals to the would-be criminals to refrain from using the criminal act in an attempt to get a large sum of money from ex-lovers and prevent the blackmailers from taking any revenge attack on any innocent person without having any lawful reason.
In the light of the above case study, blackmail can be defined as a criminal act involving unjustified threats to make a gain (commonly money or property) or cause loss to another unless a demand is met. Blackmail can also be defined as coercion as it involves threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates, or threats of physical harm or criminal prosecution.
Blackmail may also be considered as a form of extortion as the blackmailer takes away the personal property of an individual/victim by threat of future harm. Therefore, it can also be defined as the use of threats to prevent another from engaging in a lawful occupation and writing libellous letters or letters that provoke a breach of peace, as well as use of intimidation for purposes of collecting an unpaid debt.
In the above case study, the jilted secretary made a false rape claim against her ex-boss and demanded £200,000 from him to drop the false claim made after he ended their affair. Her false claim and demand for £200,000 satisfy all the elements of the offence.
In the light of the above case, a common question might arise - what is required to prove blackmail? In order to prove the criminal offence, it must be shown that the defendant has done the following things: (1) That the defendant made a demand, (2) the demand was made with menaces; (3) that the demand was unwarranted and (4) that the defendant has an aim to make a gain for himself or another or has intent to cause a loss to another.
Regarding demand, it has to be an unlawful claim made without any lawful basis. A demand could take the form of an unread email or text message or even an answer machine message left which has not yet been seen or listened to.
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, blackmail is a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968. Sections 21(1) and (2) of the Act 1 of this Act defines blackmail and stipulates that: (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. The Act further states that 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. Under the Theft Act 1968, a person convicted of blackmail is liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding 14 years.
To combat the offence of blackmail, we must stand together shoulder to shoulder and bring the blackmailers before justice. Political leaders, law enforcement agencies, community leaders and public interest groups should join this journey to combat and wage a legal war on the criminals.
The writer is a Barrister of the Society of Lincoln's Inn, chartered legal executive lawyer of CILEX and principal of an international law firm based at Marble Arch, London, the UK.