Blackmailer worried that ‘people will think I’m evil’

High Court-panoply1A 19-year-old woman will have to wait a little longer to find out if she will be publicly named for a blackmail incident that ended with the suicide of the victim.

A report to the court said that she was worried that if name suppression was lifted she would lose her friends, become socially isolated, and “everybody would think she was evil”.

The teenager, who was upset and weeping at her sentencing in June, is already doing a 10 month term of home detention and 100 hours of community work.

The question of permanent suppression was adjourned for a further psychological report and submissions by Kerry Cook for the defence, and Pip Currie for the Crown.

The hearing ended today with Justice Christian Whata reserving his decision in the High Court at Christchurch.

Mr Cook argued the psychological report showed that there was a prospect that publication could affect the woman’s rehabilitation and reintegration, and that amounted to “extreme hardship” which could allow suppression to be granted. Publication would cause severe mental stress, and suicide could not be excluded.

Mrs Currie referred to the report that set out the woman’s fears about publication – that people would think she was evil. “The factors mentioned don’t even come close to what would amount to extreme hardship,” she said.

Justice Whata was told that publication could derail the good progress she had made since her sentencing. He said: “There is some strong evidence in the report that she has squared up to her offending and acknowledges it and the consequences of it.”

She pleaded guilty in May to the charge that involved blackmail by text message.

The woman was 17 when she met the 40-year-old man, and formed a relationship that involved payments in exchange for oral sex. She said she felt guilty when she found he had a partner but “freaked out” when she thought she would not get the promised money.

Over a four-day period, she sent a series of texts threatening to “tell everyone that you are a sick pedo and I have all the texts to prove it”.

She texted: “I’m only 17. It will look bad.” She demanded $3000.

She then threatened to expose the relationship to the victim’s partner.

The man told his partner, and then committed suicide the next day. Later that day, one more text arrived from the woman: “Make sure there’s 4K in there tomorrow or I’ll tell everyone you are a dirty old man.”

Her youth and “immature judgment” was taken into account at the sentencing. Justice Whata said there was “plainly some connection between the blackmail and the victim’s suicide”, but the woman could not sentenced on the basis that she was criminally culpable for the death. He would sentence her on the basis that her conduct was a contributing factor to the suicide.

The judge commented today that young people tended to feel the effects of publication more acutely than older people who had developed coping strategies.

No date has been set for the release of his decision, but in the meantime the Crown will find out what the views of the victim’s family are about suppression. The victim already has permanent suppression.


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