Being a target of blackmail can be incredibly difficult for so many people, and whilst the financial element of blackmail is obviously the one that investigators will get to the bottom of and prosecutors will try to penalise, the emotional element of blackmail cannot be understated.
People who are being blackmailed or have just been blackmailed can feel lost, exploited, trapped in a horrible situation and as if their life is on a knife edge, controlled to some degree by someone else with malevolent intent.
However, given that blackmail is a serious crime punishable with a 14-year prison sentence, you
have rights and control over the situation, and investigators will do what they can to help you out of this position and ensure that the blackmailers face justice.
To understand your rights, it is important to know what the Crown Prosecution Service defines as blackmail and break down the elements where you can start seeking legal protections.
An act of blackmail is committed when someone who intends to gain for themselves or cause loss to someone else makes a demand with menaces that is unwarranted.
A gain or a loss does not need to be money or property but could be someone gaining compromising images or information and the target losing control over images/information they would like to not be disclosed.
Whilst there are many legitimate demands for payment that can feel intimidating or threatening, the key difference between an aggressive demand and blackmail is whether the threat is “unwarranted”.
In other words, if there are no reasonable grounds to make the demand and the menacing threats are not a proper way of reinforcing it.
It is important to gather as much evidence as possible, including screenshots, recordings of calls if they are made with the blackmailer, and bank statements of money lost.
Typically you should avoid communicating with the blackmailer if at all possible, but in some cases of targeted attacks there is no alternative but to have some form of communication even if it is only one way.
Whatever the case, gather as much evidence as you can and report it to the police and an investigator. They will work as quickly as possible to track down the blackmailer and file an injunction against them.
In the UK, there is a distinction between criminal blackmail and civil blackmail, which is part of the law against harassment.
Whilst typically most people would rather go through the criminal proceedings, it can be worth filing a civil injunction as it can stop the harassment much quicker than the criminal justice system, particularly if there is a time-critical element to the threats.
At no point should you pay off a blackmailer. First of all, it will generally not stop the threats and demands for payment. If anything, they will increase since the blackmailer knows you will pay.
Secondly, if the information you are being blackmailed about is information that may have legal consequences (such as records of irregularities or impropriety), then attempting to pay off the blackmailer could potentially implicate you in the crime of perverting the course of justice.
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