Blackmailer spared jail after threatening to expose a woman’s sex tape to her boyfriend unless she gave him money
A blackmailer who threatened to expose a woman’s sex tape to her boyfriend unless she loaned him money has been spared an immediate prison sentence.
Newcastle Crown Court had previously heard how Jonathan Watson, 31, was ”struggling financially" in August last year and had received abusing repayment messages from a man to whom he owed cash. One stated: “Where the **** is my money?”
Soon after he received the messages, Watson initially asked the woman for £10 and threatened to reveal a secret about her to her boyfriend unless she handed it over, which she did.
A few days later he asked for another £20 and she refused. As a result, the court heard, Watson, of Rainton Street, Seaham, warned the victim: "I will destroy your happy life".
Prosecutor Liam O'Brien said: "He then sent that video to the complainant's Facebook account (via messenger). The complainant was entirely unaware he was in possession of such a video and said it made her sick."
Watson warned he would send a version of the explicit recording to her boyfriend unless she agreed to loan him the money - but he did not.
However, the woman had contacted police, saying: “I am scared of what is going to happen next."
She later said of the footage threat: "It made me feel sick to the stomach.
"I feel worried about where else this video is. I don't know if he shared it with anyone. I feel like I am wary all the time, waiting for it to be posted on social media."
Watson admitted two blackmail charges and sending malicious communication. He told police: "I'm sorry for the trouble I have caused."
After hearing mitigation, Judge Julie Clemitson deferred passing sentence for six months. She said Watson would avoid immediate prison if he could prove he could stay out of trouble, seek professional help to deal with his drug misuse and continue to comply with mental health treatment.
Judge Clemitson received a progress update at Carlisle Crown Court when it was confirmed Watson hadn’t committed any further crimes, was engaging with the probation service and making efforts to address substance misuse.
Penny Hall, defending, said Watson had not been using drugs and, temporarily, was living with his mother.
“She is someone who will not tolerate drugs or drug misuse in her home,” said Ms Hall. “He barely leaves the house and so his mother is confident he’s not been using drugs.”
In response, Judge Clemitson observed: “It seems Mr Watson has done what he can to comply with the conditions of the deferment, so I will keep my end of the bargain and impose a sentence which does not require him to lose his liberty today.”
She noted that a medical report produced in May suggested Watson was "on the road to becoming more stable", and that he was more compliant with his medication. A specialist formed the view custody "was likely to lead to a deterioration" in his mental health.
A nine-month jail term was suspended for two years, and Watson also received a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement.