Are electronic photos property for the purposes of blackmail?

26 July 2017

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

A 16 year old female, feeling intimidated by a male who she was friends with on Facebook, sent him some topless photos of herself. Following this, he demanded more photos, stating that he would show her family the photos she had already sent, if she didn't send any more. She then sent him more photos. Can these photos which were sent electronically be classed as property so he would be gaining property for the purposes of blackmail?

Answer:

The blackmail offence could potentially be made out as it may be argued that the photographs were 'property' for the purposes of the section 21 offence.

However, as the female is only 16 years old we would suggest that the offence of possession of indecent images of a child may be more appropriate under section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which still refers to a child being under the age of 18 as opposed to offences such as sexual communication with a child under section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which applies only to under 16's.

Alternatively, if the images have been disclosed to anyone else by the suspect, then section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (the revenge porn offence) may be considered.

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