Judge suspends sentence of Canadian blackmailer
A Canadian woman who admitted two counts of blackmail against a man she alleged had sexually assaulted her was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday and ordered to repay the money she received.
The Supreme Court heard that the complainant gave the defendant a total of $25,000, but she subsequently requested another $50,000.
The woman had made a police statement about the sexual assault – which the complainant denied – the same month it took place, but claimed she was then advised by a lawyer to deal with it by way of an out-of-court settlement.
Neither party can be identified for legal reasons.
Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said that while the starting point for blackmail sentencing was a term of imprisonment, the unusual circumstances of the case made it appropriate to suspend the sentence.
“The defendant sought legal advice as to what to do after what she perceived was a sexual assault on her,” he said. “I will give the defendant the benefit of the doubt that she was advised to reach a negotiated out-of-court settlement.
“The defendant made a formal complaint to the police – there was no indication from the prosecution that she fabricated this complaint – and the defence suggests in an e-mail a formal agreement be drafted and lawyers be involved in the so-called negotiated settlement.
“This distinguishes this case from others in which blackmail is made by more clandestine means.
“It appears to me that there was at least an attempt to settle this matter civilly, but that the defendant through her words and actions proceeded in a manner which crossed a line into the offence of blackmail, particularly in the sense that she was initially given $25,000 but then went back for more.
“Clearly she must have seen the ease by which she was able to extract the $25,000 from the complainant and decided to extract more.”
Mr Justice Wolffe said regarding the allegation of sexual assault, there was a “divergence of what may have occurred”, but the complainant should in no way be tainted by the allegations.
“He has suffered enough by virtue of blackmail and it would be injustice for his good reputation to be tarnished by any allegations of the defendant,” he said.
Prosecutor Alan Richards told the court that the defendant arrived in Bermuda in March 2020 and was stuck on the island by the closure of the airport due to the global pandemic later that month.
On May 19, 2020 an incident occurred between the defendant and the complainant at the home where she was staying, in which she claimed she was sexually assaulted.
The defendant later approached a lawyer about the incident and submitted a written statement on June 1, but at the time she requested that no action be taken.
The defendant said she was advised by the lawyer that as she was not from Bermuda, the best course of action would be to seek an out-of-court settlement for damages.
The court heard that she later approached the defendant and said she was prepared to take him to court and requested that money be paid into her account to avoid a court case and his family being told about the allegations.
The Crown said the complainant, concerned about his family being involved in the matter, reluctantly agreed to pay the defendant $25,000 and transferred that sum on June 12 that year.
Sometime later, the defendant approached the complainant again and asked for an additional $50,000, stating that she had a video of him admitting sexual assault.
The defendant also allegedly sent e-mails to a member of the complainant’s family, demanding that he stay away from her and threatening to bring the matter to The Royal Gazette, along with making what prosecutors described as a “thinly veiled threat of violence” against the complainant.
Both the Crown and defence counsel recommended that a two-year suspended sentence – along with a restitution order – would be appropriate in all of the circumstances of the case.
Susan Mulligan, counsel for the defendant, said her client was deeply remorseful and had already put aside the money to fully repay the complainant.
She said the defendant had attempted to follow through on the advice she had received from a lawyer to get a settlement but had done so in the wrong way.
“She is not legally minded and there are a lot of television shows showing matters being handled this way,” she said.
“She went out on her own thinking she could leverage a result. It was criminal. She knows that now but ignorance of the law is not an excuse.”
Ms Mulligan told the court that the defendant admitted the offences at the first opportunity and – while she had been allowed by the courts to return to Canada – had come back to the island for her sentencing, knowing there was a chance she would be incarcerated.
The defendant herself apologised to the courts, to her family, and the family of the complainant.
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