The offence of blackmail can be committed by sending a demand whilst outside of England and Wales.
This was an appeal against a terminatory ruling. The respondent was a commercial balloon pilot for a company registered in England and Wales. His contract was terminated and he took issue with the way in which he was dismissed. He travelled to Nepal and from that country sent emails demanding a resolution or else he would set up a website aiming to "promote his case" (or blackmailing the complainants according to the Crown). He was charged with two counts of blackmail contrary to s.21(1) of the Theft Act 1968.
At trial the defence, at the close of the prosecution case, stated that the Crown could not prove that the respondent's emails had been sent from within England and Wales, and therefore the English court had no jurisdiction to try the case.
Key to jurisdiction was the location of the ‘relevant event', as stated in s.2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 (CJA 1993). The defence submitted that the ‘relevant event' was the sending of the email and that occurred outside of the jurisdiction of the English court.
The trial Judge agreed with the defence submission and dismissed the case.
The prosecution appealed this ruling. The issue was whether the courts in England and Wales have jurisdiction to try an offence of blackmail where a communication containing an unwarranted demand with menaces with a view to gain is sent by a defendant from abroad to a person within England or Wales.
The Court of Appeal considered the case of Treacy and the Law Commission Report into jurisdictional matters which resulted in s.4 CJA 1993. The Court of Appeal found that s.4 of CJA 1993 resolved the jurisdictional question raised in Treacy by adopting two ways as to how jurisdiction could be established. They found that:
"the communication of a demand founded jurisdiction if it were sent either:
from a place in England and Wales to a place elsewhere, or
from a place elsewhere to a place in England and Wales."
The Court of Appeal therefore found that in the instant case the second scenario applied. They ruled that it was not the communication of the demand but the demand itself which was the ‘relevant event' and as the demand was made to a person in England and Wales the court did have jurisdiction to hear the case.
Appeal allowed, fresh trial ordered.
Enter your email address below to sign up and receive updates from our news, articles and cases.
For help and advice talk to a member of our clerking team. They can advise on the best options for your matter.
Call: +44 (0) 20 7353 3102