R v Lambert
Court of Appeal
Citations:  EWCA Crim 2860,  1 Cr App R 21.
The defendant called a grandmother about debts her grandson supposedly owed him. He pretended to be the grandson, telling her that someone had kidnapped him and was demanding £5000. The grandmother said she didn’t have the money, and the defendant hung up. The grandmother believed the defendant was her grandson. She was frightened for his wellbeing.
When the defendant called the grandmother again, still pretending to be the grandson, she told him to contact the man’s mother. However, she became suspicious when the defendant asked for the mother’s phone number. The grandmother eventually got in touch with her son and realised it was all a lie.
The defendant was charged with blackmail – making an unwarranted demand with menaces. He argued that there was no unwarranted demand, since the ‘grandson’ never explicitly asked for the money. He also argued that it was relevant that he was not in any position to carry out any threat to the grandson. The judge rejected this, and the jury convicted him. The defendant appealed.
- Did the defendant make an unwarranted demand?
- Does a person charged with blackmail need to be in a position to carry out their threat?
The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction. There was an implicit demand which was clearly unwarranted. It was irrelevant that the defendant was not able to carry out his threat, since what is important is the impact of the threat on the victim. The defendant’s actions were designed to pressure the grandmother to hand over the money, which was the essence of blackmail.
This Case is Authority For…
For the offence of blackmail, it does not matter whether the defendant is able to carry out his threat. It also does not matter if the defendant or another person will carry out the threat.
There is no need for the ‘demand’ to be phrased as an explicit demand or aggressively. Menacing pressure is sufficient.
The court noted that blackmail would not be committed by a real hostage conveying his kidnapper’s demand. In those circumstances, there would be no ‘unwarranted demand’. Instead, the innocent agent would be merely reporting what was occurring.