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Reading Crown Court: Newbury man tried to blackmail former acquaintance

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A MAN tried to blackmail a former acquaintance by falsely branding him a sex offender.

James Hamill demanded £5,000 from his victim and even showed him letters he had drafted that he threatened to show his family if he did not comply, Reading Crown Court heard on Monday, November 1.

Hamill also has similar, previous convictions, prosecutor Christina Josephides revealed.

Crown Court (52802954)
Crown Court (52802954)

The 24-year-old, of Pound Street, Newbury, was initially charged with blackmail, but a trial was avoided when the Crown agreed to accept a guilty plea to the lesser charge of sending a malicious communication.

Ms Josephides said: "Mr Hamill made contact with the complainant via Facebook and Instagram."

She explained that Hamill had known his victim when they were both children and, upon learning he was married with a family, had decided to target him via social media.

The court heard Hamill sent a chilling message in February, 2019, stating: "If you don't pay me £5,000 I will tell everyone you molested me when we were children."

He followed it up with more threats and showed draft messages he had written to the victim's wife and child, adding: "If you give me the £5,000 I will keep my mouth shut."

The victim told the court in a statement: "These allegations are incredibly distressing. It's had a huge emotional impact on me, not knowing from one day to the next what the next threatening message will be.

"I'm completely at a loss as to why I was targeted - allegations like these can ruin people's lives."

The court heard that Hamill has previous convictions for similar offences and has previously been made subject to a suspended sentence order.

Christopher Blake, defending, pleaded with the court not to send his client to prison, saying: "Your honour could properly deal with this by way of a suspended sentence. I say that because of the age of the matter and because recently there have been signs of progress in his life."

Mr Blake said Hamill suffered from autistic spectrum disorder and had struggled with drug abuse and problems with alcohol.

He added: "He has had a new job for the past nine weeks; he works in a pub and deals with food preparation.

"In the long term what society needs is a rehabilitated James Hamill - if he was sent to prison for a short period, what would be the benefit to society?"

Judge Sarah Campbell told Hamill: "This was originally charged as blackmail. This was an insidious offence. Over the course of several months you sent a number of messages via Facebook and Instagram...there were draft messages written to go to his wife.

"The complainant was understandably concerned about the effect this could have on his standing in the community."

She pointed to Hamill's previous convictions for offences including harassment and battery but accepted that mental illness, exacerbated by drug abuse, had played a part in his offending.

Hamill was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

In addition he was ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid community work.

Finally, Hamill was ordered to pay £1,200 in compensation to his victim in lieu of costs.

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