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R v Harvey (1981) 72 Cr App R 139 Court of Appeal

The three defendants had given £20,000 to the complainant for a consignment of cannabis. The consignment, however, turned out to be worthless. In response the defendants kidknapped the complainants wife and child and threatened to rape, maim and kill them unless he returned their money. The trial judge directed the jury that threats to commit serious criminal offences could never be regarded as 'proper'. The jury convicted them of blackmail and they appealed on the grounds of a mis-direction.


The convictions were upheld. The trial judge was wrong not to leave the question of belief that the demand was proper to the jury, the Court of Appeal was satisfied that a jury properly directed would have inevitably convicted.

Bingham J:

" 'Proper' is plainly a word of wide meaning, certainly wider than 'lawful'. But the greater includes the less and no act which was not believed to be lawful could be believed to be proper within the meaning of the subsection. Thus no assistance is given to any defendant, even a fanatic or a deranged idealist, who knows or suspects that his threat, or the act threatened, is criminal, but believes it to be justified by his end or his peculiar circumstances."
Back to lecture outline on The Law of Blackmail