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Blackmail is a crime of property

Blackmail is a crime of property where a blackmailer (the accused) makes threats in order to obtain possession or control of property belonging to another (the complaining victim).

There is no requirement to prove that the accused actually obtained the property of the victim as it is sufficient that he used threats to pressure the complainant and demand the property from him.

Blackmail is similar to robbery. In robbery, there is also a threat although it involves violence against the person being robbed. Another difference is that in blackmail, the accused merely seeks possession or control of the property of the complainant whereas in robbery the accused seeks to deprive the complainant of the ownership of the property.

The demand may be made expressly by means of verbal threats or impliedly by means of acts or gestures. For instance, when a complainant is using his smartphone at a bus stop and the accused comes, holds the complainant’s smartphone with one hand without taking it while with the other hand he takes the complainant by the collar and shakes him.

In this example, the accused did not say anything but he did move and act in a menacing and threatening way that left the complainant without doubt that the accused was demanding his smartphone from him. Whether or not the complainant actually gives up his phone to the accused, the accused has already committed an act of blackmail.

What if the demand for money or property was made through a letter written by the accused and addressed to the complainant, would this still be blackmail? In fact, historically, the word ‘blackmail’ originated from the act of sending a letter containing threats and a demand.

Historically, ‘blackmail’ was not limited to demands for property. “Blackmail’ could contain any unreasonable request for the complainant to do or not to do a particular act.

For example: a man enters a bank and hands the bank teller a written note. On the note, it says that $50,000 should be deposited into an account number which was written on the note or else the bank teller’s daughter will be run over as she walks home from school.

The act of the accused in giving the letter demanding that money be deposited into the account is already a criminal act. If the money is actually transmitted into the account then this is a separate crime.

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Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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