Blackmail is an act of coerion using the threat of revealing or publicizing
either substantially true or false information about a person or people unless
certain demands are met. It is often damaging information, and may be revealed
to family members or associates rather than to the general public. It may
involve using threats of physical, mental or emotional harm, or of criminal
prosecution, against the victim or someone close to the victim. It is normally
carried out for personal gain, most commonly of position, money, or property.
Blackmailing amounts to Criminal intimidation, which is well defined in the
Indian Penal Code Section 503 as:
Whoever threatens another with any injury to
his person, reputation or property , or to the person or reputation of any one
in whom that person is interested , with intent to cause alaram to that person ,
or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do , as the
means of avoiding the execution of such threat , commits criminal intimidation.
The offence of criminal intimidation can be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine , or with
It can also be discribe under Section 384:
Punishment for Extortion - Whoever
commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for
the term which may extend to three years , or with fine , or with both. Under
this provision the punishment is of 3 years and this offence is Non bailable and
Triable in any Magistrate .
In many jurisdictions, blackmail is a statutory offense, often criminal,
carrying punitive sanctions for convicted perpetrators. Blackmail is the name of
a statutory offense in the United States, England and Wales, and Australia, and
has been used as a convenient way of referring to certain other offenses, but
was not a term used in English Law until 1968.
Blackmail was originally a term from the Scottish borders meaning payments
rendered in exchange for protection from thieves and marauders. The "mail" part
of blackmail derives from Middle English male meaning "rent or tribute". This
tribute (male or reditus) was paid in goods or labour ("nigri"); hence reditus
nigri, or "blackmail". Alternatively, it may be derived from two Scottish Gaelic
words blathaich - to protect; and mal - tribute or payment.
The word blackmail is variously derived from the word for tribute ( In modern
terms , protection racket ) paid by English and Scottish border dwellers to
Border revivers in return for immunity from raids and other harassment. The
"mail" part of blackmail derives from Middle english male , "rent,
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). An alternative version is that rents in these
Scottish borders were often paid in produce of the land, called "greenmail"
('green rent'), suggesting "blackmail" as a counterpart paid perforce to the
Alternatively, Mackey derives it from two Scottish Gaelie words blathaich pronounced
(the th silent) bla-ich (to protect) and mal (tribute, payment), buttock mail .
He notes that the practice was common in the Scottish highlands as well as the
borders . In the Irish language , the term cíos dubh, meaning "black-rent", has
also been employed.
The Theft Act 1968 section 21 contains the present-day definition of blackmail
in English law. It requires four elements:
Therefore, the requirement for this offence may be paraphrased as:
- There must be a "demand".
- The demand must also have been accompanied or reinforced (at the time or later)
by a "menace". Broadly, a menace is any threat, or implied consequence or
action, which would coerce or pressure an unwilling person to accede (give in)
to the demand.
- The making of a "demand with menace(s)" must have been "unwarranted". Broadly, a
demand with menace is always unwarranted unless both the making of the demand
was reasonably justified, and its reinforcement with the "menace" was proper, in
the belief of the perpetrator.
- There must have been an intention by the perpetrator to make a gain for
himself/herself or someone else, or to cause a loss to someone.
- A person makes a demand of someone else, which is accompanied or reinforced in
some way by some consequence if they don't comply, which would coerce an
unwilling victim to do what is demanded, and
- The intent is to make a gain (for themselves or anyone else) or cause a loss (to
- and either
- The perpetrator did truly believe that the demand was based on
- The perpetrator did truly believe that the menace was a proper way to
reinforce the demand.
The law considers a "demand with menaces"
to always be "unwarranted
(unjustified), unless the perpetrator actuallybelieved that his/her demand had
reasonable grounds, and also actually believed that the menace was a proper way
to reinforce that demand. These tests relate to the actual belief of the
perpetrator, not the belief of an ordinary or reasonable person. Therefore,
tests related to what a "reasonable" person might think, and tests of
dishonesty, are not often relevant - the matter hinges upon the actual and
honest beliefs and knowledge of the perpetrator him/herself.
The wording of the
Act means that there is a presumption in law that demands and/or menaces are
likely to be deemed unwarranted, unless the perpetrator shows evidence that they
were believed not to be. However, once a perpetrator has defended him/herself by
giving evidence related to the demand and menace both being believed warranted,
the prosecution must overturn one or both of these claims to prove their case.
The usual rule is that a criminal act, or a belief not truly held, can never be
"warranted", although according to some authors, a "grey area" may (rarely)
exist where a very minor illegality may be honestly believed to be warranted.
Additionally, a statement that would not usually coerce or pressure someone may
still be a "menace"
, if the perpetrator knew, believed, or expected that their
specific victim would feel coerced or pressured by it. The law does not require
a demand or menace to be received by the victim, merely that they are made,
therefore it is irrelevant whether the victim was affected or not, or even
unaware of them (perhaps because they had not yet been received, read or
Because the criteria include an intention to "cause
" some kind of
gain or loss, a demand for sex (for example) would not be considered blackmail,
so threats with these and other demands are dealt with under a variety of other
criminal laws. However even in these cases, a gain or loss of some kind can
often be found, and then this law can then be applied.
In some cases, the perpetrator him/herself may claim to have acted under
duress . The courts have ruled that a person who places themselves in a
situation where they may be coerced to make a demand with menaces against a
third party is likely, foreseeable, or probable, may not be able to rely on
coercion as a defence because they voluntarily placed themselves in such a
situation. This issue has arisen, for example, in gang -related voilence.
Because blackmail can cover any unwarranted demand with a menace, many other
offences may also be carried out as part of committing blackmail, or by the same
events. For example:
- An offence of robbery under section 8(1) of the theft act 1968 may be
committed, if a person puts or seeks to put another person in fear of being
subjected to force if their demand is not met.
- An offence under section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 might be committed if a
person intended to cause another person to believe that immediate unlawful
violence will be used against him (or someone else) or if the person threatened
is likely to believe that such violence will be used.
- An offence under section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 may be committed if
there is a threat to destroy or damage property.
- An offence under section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 may be committed if a
person receives consideration (broadly meaning: any gain or benefit) in
exchange for agreeing not to report any "relevant" (previously: "arrest
- Several kinds of offence under Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act
1970 may be committed by debt collectors and other creditors , if they make
false and coercive statements in order to coerce debtors to pay them money.
- Blackmail is an indicitable only offence . A person convicted of blackmail is
liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding fourteen years.
- In R v Hadjou (1989), 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.
A blackmailer who threatens to publish a defamatory statement of and concerning
an individual may be liable to be sued after the regulations of the Defamation
Act 2013.Offenders of defamation may be taken to court if serious harm is done
to the victim. The requirement for serious harm defines:
- A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is
likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
- For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that
trades for profit is not "serious harm" unless it has caused or is likely to
cause the body serious financial loss.
The trial for the offence must be with a jury in the case of charges with cases
- malicious prosecution
- false imprisonment
The Supreme court elaborating the scope of section 503 in the case of Ramesh
Chandra Arora v. State
held that it comprises two parts as stated above. In the instant case, the
accused had been charged with the offences of criminal intimidation by
threatening a person and that person s daughter of making public a nude
photograph of the daughter if " hush money
" was not paid to him. Obviously ,
the intention was to threaten them and cause alarm in their mind . The trail
court convicted the accused under section 503/506 which was affirmed by the high
Sextortion (Webcam Blackmail)
Sextortion employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from
the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in
which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of
sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information
is the means of coercion.
As used to describe an abuse of power, sextortion is a form of corruption in
which people entrusted with power – such as government officials, judges,
educators, law enforcement personnel, and employers – seek to extort sexual
favors in exchange for something within their authority to grant or
withhold. Examples of such abuses of power include: government officials who
request sexual favors to obtain licenses or permits, teachers who trade good
grades for sex with students, and employers who make providing sexual favors a
condition of obtaining a job.
Sextortion also refers to a form of blackmail in
which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors from the
victim. Social media and text messages are often the source of the sexual
material and the threatened means of sharing it with others. An example of this
type of sextortion is where people are extorted with a nude image of themselves
they shared on the Internet through sexting.
They are later coerced into
performing sexual acts with the person doing the extorting or are coerced into
posing or performing sexually on camera, thus producing hardcore
pornography This method of blackmail is also frequently used to outing LGBT people
who keep their true sexual orientation private. A video highlighting the
dangers of sextortion has been released by the National crime agency in the
UK to educate people, especially given the fact that blackmail of a sexual
nature may cause humiliation to a sufficient extent to cause the victim to
take their own life in addition to other efforts to educate the public on the
risks of sextortion.
Sextortion through the use of webcams is also a concern, especially for those
who use webcams flirting and cybersex Often this involves a cybercriminal
posing as someone else – such as an attractive person – initiating
communication of a sexual nature with the victim (about 95% of victims are
male). Often, the cybercriminal simply shows the victim a pre-recorded video of
a performer from a cybersex webcam site which they are sufficiently familiar
with, then messages the victim at points in the video where the performer
appears to be typing on the keyboard, to give the illusion that the performer in
the video is messaging them.
The victim is then persuaded to undress in front of
a webcam, and may also be persuaded to engage in sexual behaviour, such as
masturbation .The video is recorded by the cybercriminal, who then reveals their
true intent and demands money or other services (such as more explicit images of
the victim, in cases of online predation ), and threatening to publicly release
the video to video services like youtube and send it to family members and
friends of the victim if they do not comply.
Sometimes threats to make false
allegations of paedophilia against the victim are made as well. This is known
as webcam blackmail.An increase in webcam blackmails have been reported, and it
affects both young and old, male and female alike. Webcam blackmail is also
connected with webcam trolling.