R v Harvey – Case Summary

R v Harvey (Alfred Alphonsus)

R v Uylett (Ernest)

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1981) 72 Cr App R 139.


The appellants made an agreement with a man called Scott to buy £20,000 worth of cannabis. They paid Scott the money in advance. Scott had no intention of delivering the goods. Instead, he fooled the appellants into thinking he was legitimate with a small sample of real cannabis, before delivering rubbish. In response to this, the appellants kidnapped Scott, his wife and child. They then threatened the family over a period of four days for the return of the money. Eventually, the family was rescued by police.

The appellants were convicted of a number of offences arising out of this event, including blackmail. Blackmail is committed if:

with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces; and for this purpose a demand with menaces is unwarranted unless the person making it does so in the belief…(a) that he has reasonable grounds for making the demand; and…(b) that the use of the menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand. (s.21, Theft Act 1968)

The appellants appealed the blackmail conviction on the grounds that they believed that they had reasonable grounds for demanding their money back and that using menaces was a proper means of enforcing that demand.

  1. What must a defendant believe to rely on the defence of having reasonable grounds and using proper means?

The Court of Appeal upheld the convictions. The appellants must have known that their method for enforcing their demand (kidnapping and threatening violence) was unlawful. It was therefore impossible for them to believe that they were using proper means.

This Case is Authority For…

To convict someone of blackmail, the jury must consider what the actual defendant believed, not what a reasonable man would believe. The prosecution needs to prove that this particular defendant believed he had reasonable grounds and was using proper means.

However, a means of enforcing the demand cannot be ‘proper’ unless it is lawful. This means that a defendant cannot believe they are using proper means if he knows or suspects his actions are criminal.