Introduction and Facts
Having been convicted on 25th February of blackmailing Tamara Ecclestone, Derek Rose was sentenced to 4 years in prison on 26th February.
The case was in the newspapers because the victim, Ms Ecclestone, is a model and daughter of Forumla 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
The facts in brief, as taken from the news reports, are that Mr Rose and Ms Ecclestone separated following a two year relationship a long while ago. Mr Rose thereafter sold his story to the tabloids in 2002, but on this occasion (in November 2011) he sent an email to Ms Ecclestone’s manager stating that he would be selling further stories to the newspapers and “threatened to reveal personal details“.
The Prosecutor told the Court that the email was ‘constructed to intimidate Ms Ecclestone’ and there were “pernicious” implications about damage to her reputation. The tone of the email was “you don’t really want that in the press whether it’s true or not”‘
What is blackmail?
Blackmail is an offence contrary to s21 Theft Act 1968. In essence, for a defendant to be guilty of blackmail there must be the following:
- a demand (which can by implicit or explicit)
- with ‘menaces’
- that was unwarranted
- and was done for gain for himself (or another, or to cause loss to another)
A good definition of menaces is that it is “liberally construed and not [as] limited to threats of violence but as including threats of any action detrimental to or unpleasant to the person addressed. It may also include a warning that in certain events such action is intended”.
Whether a demand is ‘unwarranted’ is a fact for the jury. Even if the demand is for something to which I am lawfully entitled, it can still be blackmail if the way I try and get it is disproportionate – for example, if I lend you £10 and you don’t pay me back, then a threat to firebomb your house would probably be ‘unwarranted’.
Was the sentence right
There are no sentencing guidelines for blackmail, but the courts have generally taken a very dim view of it. The leading case of Hadjou  11 Cr App R (S) 29 gives a flavour of this – the Court of Appeal said “In the calendar of criminal offences blackmail was one of the ugliest and most vicious because it involved what one found so often, attempted murder of the soul. Deterrence was perhaps the most important part of the sentence in such a case”
For this reason, it is almost inevitable that someone convicted of blackmail will get a prison sentence, and probably one measure in years, unless it’s wholly exceptional.
In the absence of fuller details and the sentencing remarks, or any guidelines, we will have to wait to see if there is an appeal.
Mr Rose will have to serve about half of the four years in prison and then half in the community, under the supervision of Probation. For a fuller explanation, see here.
There is a co-defendant about whom the jury could not agree a verdict. There may be a re-trial in relation to him.