What is “sextortion” and what can you do about it?

12 July 2018

“Celebrity Sextortion” is a new Channel 4 programme, which airs tonight and follows Dan Lobb as he seeks to find out how a private and sexually explicit video of him was released online.  The promotion for the programme refers to a Skype video sex session with a Twitter follower he had been flirting with online and it describes this worrying trend as a “very modern cautionary tale”.

The programme focuses on people in the media spotlight but with a recent threefold increase in the number of reported victims of sextortion, it is clear this is not just happening in the celebrity arena. With the real number of victims thought to be much higher than reported, more needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward and report this crime.

In this blog, we explain what sextortion is and what to do if you are victim.

What is sextortion?

In short, sextortion is a form of blackmail. Under section 21 of the Theft Act 1968, a person is guilty of blackmail 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.

In the context of sextortion, this often involves a person who has allowed themselves to be filmed or has been secretly recorded whilst engaging in sexual activity. Criminals then use this footage to extort money from the person by threatening to release the footage or other potentially embarrassing information. The range of material on which the threat can be based is wide and can include jilted lovers or our nearest and dearest when things go sour in a relationship.

Steps you can take if you are a victim of sextortion

The National Crime Agency has published some helpful guidance on what to do if you are a victim of sextortion. They list four points:

  1. Do not panic – contact your local police and internet service provider immediately;
  2. Do not communicate further with the criminals;
  3. Do not pay; and
  4. Preserve evidence – do not delete any correspondence.

If you are a victim of sextortion or blackmail, we appreciate that this is a very sensitive issue and that it may be embarrassing to report this to the police. At Kingsley Napley, we have 30 years’ experience of guiding clients through the Criminal Justice system and finding innovative ways to preserve our client’s privacy and reputation. 

We can assist you by explaining the procedure from initially attending the police station through to giving evidence at any trial. It is important to know that victims of blackmail are entitled to anonymity in any related court proceedings, which can help to minimise the stress involved in this process.  We have represented a range of individuals providing timely and discrete advice in dealing with these issues in a way that preserves your reputation and which often does not require a report to the police. 

Falling victim to these offences is not the preserve of superstars or the super wealthy.  The effects can be devastating and lonely but it doesn’t need to be.

This blog was co-written by Carl Wheeler.

Further information

If you are the victim of sextortion you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. We have assisted clients in resolving matters without the need to go to the police; where a report is necessary, we will ensure that you have all the information you need to guide you through the process.

Should you have any questions about sextortion, please contact a member of our Criminal Law team.

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We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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