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Blackmail - commercial

Date Updated: January 2012

Title: Theft

Offence: Blackmail - commercial

Legislation: S21(1) Theft Act 1968

Mode of Trial: Indictable Only

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 14 years

Culpability & Harm

  • Planning
  • Sophistication
  • More than one offender
  • Repeated demands
  • Target Individuals
  • Threat carried out - goods contaminated, bombs sent
  • Substantial amount demanded
  • Money paid
  • Political motivation

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors


Relevant Sentencing Guidelines (If Any)

R v Hadjou [1989] 11 Cr. App. R. (S) 29
In the calendar of criminal offences blackmail was one of the ugliest and most vicious because it involved what one found so often, attempted murder of the soul. Deterrence was perhaps the most important part of  the sentence in such a case.

R v Christie [1990] 12 Cr. App. R. (S) 540
Sexual Blackmail
Lloyd L.J.: From a sentencing point of view, the typical case of blackmail perhaps falls somewhere between robbery and simple theft in terms of seriousness. It is usually less serious than robbery because no violence is involved nor the threat of any violence. On the other hand it is clearly more serious than theft because of the mental anguish which is so often caused.

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

R v Cox and Jenkins [1979] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 190
Blackmail and theft. The defendants were employed in an international organization, stole sensitive information and demanded £750K for its return. Commercial espionage lacks the worst elements of terrorizing an individual. 4 years and 3 years.

R v Taylor and Norman [1996] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 102
The first defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit blackmail, and the second defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of blackmail. The defendants contacted three supermarket chains and threatened to contaminate food products unless they were paid sums totalling more than £12m. 5 years and 8 years.

R v Rioflo [1997] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 57
Pleaded guilty to two offences of blackmail. The appellant telephoned a supermarket saying that food had been contaminated with the AIDS virus and demanded £250K, and obtained £7.5K. Real mental derangement. 6 years.

R v Banot [1997] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 50
The defendant threatened to damage a store or contaminate products unless he was paid £5m. Unusual defendant. 5 years.

R v Pilkington [1996] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 383
Pleaded guilty to two counts of blackmail. The defendant telephoned the manager of a store, claiming to represent an activist group, and said that there were two bombs in the store which would be detonated unless money was delivered to a specified location. The money was delivered. The defendant repeated the threat. The defendant was suffering from psychological abnormality. 6 years.

R v Witchelo (1992) 13 Cr. App. R. (S) 371
Economic Terrorism. Convicted of six offences of blackmail, two of contaminating goods with intent to cause economic loss, one of threatening to kill and two of obtaining by deception. Contamination of supermarket products. The defendant was a serving police officer. He used information acquired whilst serving in the planning and to avoid detection. Demanded substantial sums and contamination could have resulted in substantial economic loss. Persistent and carefully planned. Exemplary sentence. 17 years.

R v Dyer [2002] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 105 (at 490) [2002] EWCA Crim. 567
Pleaded guilty to nine offences of blackmail and one of common assault The defendant sent four letter bombs to supermarkets and demanded £200K. 12 years.

R v Telford [1992] 13 Cr. App. R. (S) 676
Pleaded guilty to blackmail. The defendant wrote to sweet manufactures and threatened to contaminate there products unless they paid him £1m. 8 years.

R v Smith [1994] 15 Cr. App. R. (S) 106
Pleaded guilty to claiming to have contaminated goods with intent to cause economic loss, contrary to the Public Order Act 1986, s.38(2). The appellant told a journalist on a daily newspaper that certain products had been contaminated in a warehouse. 18 months

R v Darling [1994] 15 Cr. App. R. (S) 855
Pleaded guilty to blackmail. The appellant wrote to a hotel, threatening to carry out attacks on guests and staff of the hotel and to publicise the connection with the hotel, unless he was paid £120,000. 5 years.

R v Hoey and Sherwood [1992] 13 Cr. App. R. (S) 177
Convicted of blackmail. The defendants were concerned in attempting to persuade the staff of a public house to pay protection money, under threats to damage the premises. Amateurish protection racket. 3 years.

R v Tobin [1994] 15 Cr. App. R. (S) 221
Convicted of blackmail. The defendant threatened to disclose that the company for which he worked paid cash in hand unless he was given a loan. Not sophisticated. Personal mitigation. 1 year.

R v Cioffo [1996] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 427
Convicted of blackmail. The defendant demanded money and fired two shots at the complainant's house. Akin to robbery. Deterrent sentence. 11 years.

Ancillary Orders:

  • POCA Lifestyle offence - financial reporting order may be made
  • Restitution
  • Compensation
  • Specified serious offence within Schedule 1 to SCA 2007 - serious crime prevention order can be made

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