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In the ACT, blackmail is an offence and carries a maximum penalty of 1400 penalty units and/or 14 years imprisonment.

Is Blackmail a Crime?

The offence of blackmail is contained in Section 342 of the Criminal Code 2002, which states that it is an offence to make an unwarranted demand with menace, with the intention of obtaining a gain, causing a loss or influencing the exercise of a public duty.

To commit blackmail, a person does not need to make a demand for money or property. It is enough that a demand is made accompanied by a threat. For example:

  • threatening to slash someone’s car tyres if they do not give you a lift;
  • threatening to post unwanted pictures on the internet if someone does not go out with you;

Section 341 of the Code provides that a person makes an unwarranted demand with a menace of someone else only if the person:

  1. Makes a demand with a menace of the other person; and
  2. Does not believe that he or she has reasonable grounds for making the demand; and
  3. Does not reasonably believe that the use of the menace is a proper means of reinforcing the demand.

It does not matter whether the menace relates to action to be taken by the person making the demand.

What Actions Might Constitute Blackmail?

The following actions can form the basis of a charge of blackmail:

  • taking a person hostage and demanding a ransom;
  • threatening to damage property;
  • threatening to harm a person if they don’t do a certain thing.

What the Police must Prove

To find a person guilty of blackmail beyond a reasonable doubt, the court must be satisfied:

  • that the accused made an unwarranted demand with menace;
  • that they did so with the intention to obtain a gain, cause a loss or influence the exercise of a public duty.

Possible Defences to Blackmail

A person charged with blackmail may validly argue the following in their defence:

  • that what they did was not detrimental or unpleasant;
  • that they did not intend to cause a gain, loss or undue influence;
  • that they acted under duress.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

All blackmail matters will be dealt with in the ACT Magistrates Court or the ACT Supreme Court.

When a matter is dealt with summarily (in the Magistrates Court) the maximum penalty is $15,000, five years imprisonment or both. When the matter is dealt with on indictment (in the Supreme Court) the maximum penalty could be imposed.


The maximum penalty for blackmail is 1400 penalty units, and/or 14 years imprisonment. One penalty unit in ACT currently equates to $160 for an individual or $810 for a corporation.

However the court can impose any of the following penalties:

If you require legal advice about blackmail or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

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