Blackmail
Overview
In common usage, blackmail is a crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 involving threats to reveal substantially true
Substantial truth
Substantial truth is a legal doctrine affecting libel and slander laws in common law jurisdictions such as the US or the UK.Under the United States law, a statement cannot be held to be slanderous or libelous if it is true; the substantial truth doctrine extends this protection by holding that a...

 or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion
Coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

 involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats for the purposes of taking the person's money or property. It is the name of a statutory offence in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, and Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, and has been used as a convenient way of referring to other offences, but was not a term of art in English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

 before 1968.
Encyclopedia
In common usage, blackmail is a crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 involving threats to reveal substantially true
Substantial truth
Substantial truth is a legal doctrine affecting libel and slander laws in common law jurisdictions such as the US or the UK.Under the United States law, a statement cannot be held to be slanderous or libelous if it is true; the substantial truth doctrine extends this protection by holding that a...

 or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion
Coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

 involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats for the purposes of taking the person's money or property. It is the name of a statutory offence in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, and Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, and has been used as a convenient way of referring to other offences, but was not a term of art in English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

 before 1968. It originally denoted a payment made by English people residing along the border of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 to influential Scottish chieftains in exchange for protection from thieves and marauders.

Blackmail may also be considered a form of extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

. Although the two are generally synonymous, extortion is the taking of personal property by threat of future harm. It is the use of threats to prevent another from engaging in a lawful occupation and writing libelous letters or letters that tend to provoke a breach of the peace, as well as use of intimidation for purposes of collecting an unpaid debt. Some US states distinguish the offenses by requiring that blackmail be in writing.

Etymology

The word is variously derived from the word for tribute (in modern terms, protection racket
Protection racket
A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces a victim to pay money, supposedly for protection services against violence or property damage. Racketeers coerce reticent potential victims into buying "protection" by demonstrating what will happen if they...

) paid by English and Scottish border dwellers to Border Reivers
Border Reivers
Border Reivers were raiders along the Anglo–Scottish border from the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century. Their ranks consisted of both Scottish and English families, and they raided the entire border country without regard to their victims' nationality...

 in return for immunity from raids and other harassment. The "mail" part of blackmail derives from Middle English male, "rent, tribute." This tribute was paid in goods or labour (reditus nigri, or "blackmail"); the opposite is blanche firmes or reditus albi, or "white rent" (denoting payment by silver). Alternatively, Mckay derives it from two Scottish Gaelic words blathaich pronounced (the th silent) bl-aich (to protect) and mal (tribute, payment). He notes that the practice was common in the Highlands of Scotland as well as the Borders.

Republic of Ireland

The offence created by section 17(1) of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 is described by the marginal note to that section as "blackmail, extortion and demanding money with menaces". The offence is derived from the offence under section 21 of the Theft Act 1968.

England and Wales

In England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 this offence is created by section 21(1) of the Theft Act 1968
Theft Act 1968
The Theft Act 1968 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales.On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.-History:...

. Sections 21(1) and (2) of that Act provide:
Menaces

The word "menaces" was adopted from sections 29(1)(i) and 30 of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

. Section 29(1)(i) made it felony for a person to utter, knowing the contents thereof, any letter or writing demanding of any person with menaces, and without any reasonable or probable cause, any property or valuable thing. Section 30 made it an offence for a person to, with menaces or by force, demand of any person anything capable of being stolen with intent to steal the same.

Thorne v Motor Trade Association was decided under section 29(1)(i) of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

. Professor Griew described it as "the leading case" on the meaning of the word "menaces". In this case, Lord Wright said:
And Lord Atkin said:
This passage must be read subject to the facts that: (1) there is no longer a duty to disclose a felony
Felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 because misprision of felony
Misprision of felony
Misprision of felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanour. It consisted of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities.Exceptions were made for close family members of the felon....

 was abolished by section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967
Criminal Law Act 1967
The Criminal Law Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. However, with some minor exceptions, it generally applies to only England and Wales. It made some major changes to English criminal law...

 (2) the defendant accused of blackmail no longer has to justify his demand, and the gravamen of the offence is no longer a demand without reasonable or probable cause, but is now instead the absence of a belief that there are reasonable grounds for making the demand and that and that use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand.

R v Clear was decided under section 30 of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

. Sellers LJ said:
He continued:
In R v Lawrence and Pomroy, the defendant argued that the direction given to the jury should have contained a definition of the word "menaces" in accordance with R v Clear. Cairn L.J. said:
The word "menaces" has been held to include the following:
  • a threat to publish attacks on a company calculated to lower the value of its shares
  • a threat to reveal that the victim has not honoured a debt
  • a threat to place the victim on a trade association
    Trade association
    A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association or sector association, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry...

    's "stop-list"
  • a threat to refrain from giving evidence in an action
    Lawsuit
    A lawsuit or "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint...



Professor Griew said that the word "menaces" could conceivably include:
  • a threat of physical violence to the victim or another
  • a threat of prosecution
  • a threat to reveal actual criminal offending or sexual misbehaviour or to publish false allegations of the same


Presumably it could include a threat to damage property.

Mode of trial

Blackmail is an indictable-only offence.

Sentence

A person convicted of blackmail is liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding fourteen years.

In R v Hadjou, Lord Lane CJ said that blackmail is one of the ugliest and most vicious crimes because it often involves what he described as "attempted murder of the soul". He said that, perhaps because courts always impose severe sentences, one seldom finds a person convicted a second time of blackmail. He said that deterrence is perhaps the most important part of a sentence in a case of blackmail.

History

Before the enactment of section 21 of the Theft Act 1968, the word blackmail was not a legal term of art. The word was used by lawyers as a convenient way of referring to the offences under section 29 to 31 of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

 and those offences were commonly known as blackmail. But the word blackmail did not appear anywhere in that Act.

Hogan described these offences as "an ill-assorted collection of legislative bric a brac which the draftsmen of the 1916 Act put together with scissors and paste."

They are replaced by section 21 of the Theft Act 1968.

Northern Ireland

Offence of blackmail is created by section 20 of the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
The Theft Act 1969 is an Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. It makes similar provision to the Theft Act 1968 for Northern Ireland.-Section 11 - Removal of articles from places open to the public:...

. It is derived from and identical to section 21 of the Theft Act 1968.

United States

The offense of blackmail is created by which provides:

"Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

And see here.

Victoria, Australia

The offence of blackmail is created by section 87 of the Crimes Act 1958.

Sections 87(1) and (2) are derived from and identical to sections 21(1) and (2) of the Theft Act 1968 printed above.

Section 87(3) provides that a person guilty of blackmail is guilty of an indictable offence
Indictable offence
In many common law jurisdictions , an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury...

 and liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).

Criticism

From a libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 perspective, blackmail is not always considered to be something that should be treated as a crime. Some libertarians point out that it is licit (in the United States at this moment in time) to gossip
Gossip
Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others, It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted...

 about someone else's secret, to threaten to publicly reveal such information, and to ask a person for money, but it is illegal to combine the threat with the request for money. They say this raises the question, "Why do two rights make a wrong?"

See also

  • Emotional blackmail
    Emotional blackmail
    Emotional blackmail is a term used to cover a central form of psychological manipulation - 'the use of a system of threats and punishment on a person by someone close to them in an attempt to control their behavior'. "Emotional blackmail.....

  • Blackmail is often used in espionage
    Espionage
    Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

     to recruit spies or cause them to lie under oath or refuse to testify.
  • Extortion
    Extortion
    Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

  • Loan shark
    Loan shark
    A loan shark is a person or body that offers unsecured loans at illegally high interest rates to individuals, often enforcing repayment by blackmail or threats of violence....

  • Nuclear blackmail
    Nuclear blackmail
    Nuclear blackmail is a form of nuclear strategy in which an aggressor uses the threat of use of nuclear weapons to force an adversary to perform some action or make some concessions. It is a type of extortion, related to brinkmanship.-Effectiveness:...

  • FBI Files on Elvis Presley
    FBI Files on Elvis Presley
    The FBI Files on Elvis Presley include records kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning Elvis Presley. These records consist of 683 pages of copies of letters from members of the public commenting on his performances, newspaper clippings, and documents reporting that Presley was the...

  • Whitemail
    Whitemail
    - Economics :In economics, whitemail is an anti-takeover arrangement in which the target company will sell significantly discounted stock to a friendly third party...

  • Psychoville
    Psychoville
    Psychoville is an award-winning British dark comedy television serial written by and starring The League of Gentlemen members Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. It debuted on BBC Two on 18 June 2009. Pemberton and Shearsmith each play numerous characters, with Dawn French and Jason Tompkins in...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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