The case of XLD v KZL
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Blackmail injunction case
In this blackmail injunction case, our client, who was subjected to blackmail was a US citizen who worked in the financial services industry and the entertainment business. He occasionally visited the UK for the purpose of his business. He was married and a father to a child.
Our client visited a dating website called Seeking Arrangement. The website is known for matching Sugar Daddies with Sugar Babies. His intention was to meet a companion for the time when he is visiting the UK. The idea behind Seeking Arrangement website is that the wealthier person (the man or woman) is responsible for paying the other person's expenses, or, if the relationship is more serious, for improvement in their lifestyle.
The Defendant was a woman who lived near Manchester, England had a profile on the website. After our client came across the Defendant’s profile, he contacted her and they exchanged messages initially via the website and then via the WhatsApp messaging service. The messages became sexually explicit.
Shortly after the messaging began, the Defendant made her first financial demand, requesting our client to pay her a sum of money via PayPal. Unfortunately for him, the PayPal payment caused our client’s identity to be revealed to the Defendant through the email address associated with the PayPal account. One of the reasons why PayPal blackmail is so common is that it reveals the identity of the individual making the payment.
Once she had identified his email address, the Defendant carried out some research, until she managed to locate the residence address of our client and identify other information about him, indicating that he was a public figure. This discovery had made our client particularly vulnerable to the Defendant’s blackmail plans. Once the Defendant discovered our client’s vulnerabilities, she started to make frequent demands for money.
The demands were supported by threats to tell our client’s family about his activities. Over a period of ten months, our client was blackmailed to the tune of of £125,000.
Obtaining evidence of blackmail in a blackmail injunction case is crucial for anyone who is facing blackmail. Over that period of time, our client was in significant distress. He had not told anybody about the blackmail and he had deleted his WhatsApp messages and much of the evidence to the blackmail demands from the Claimant. Fortunately, we were able to retrieve most of the emails which together with evidence of payments to the Defendant, demonstrated a clear case of blackmail.
Often, distressed victims of blackmail delete important evidence of blackmail demands and other evidence which would help a lawyer resolve the blackmail case. Over time, and following COVID 19 restrictions, our client found it increasingly difficult to adhere to the Defendant’s blackmail demands. He has become increasingly unwell following the distress that such a prolonged period of blackmail has caused him.
Identifying the blackmailer and her residential address in the UK could be highly challenging, particularly if the person being blackmailed is from another country. The Defendant had taken steps to conceal her identity and made it difficult to identify her through public sources only. However, most blackmailers are far less careful than they think.
Our firm works closely with private investigators who are extremely talented and resourceful. It took the services of a private investigator to establish the blackmailer's true name. The investigator also reported that on 24 occasions IP addresses connected with the Defendant had been blacklisted because it was thought that blackmail demands had been made from them.
It appeared, we were dealing with a professional blackmailer who has some experience in blackmailing men she meets through dating websites. Once we have established the name, the telephone number and the postal address of the Defendant, we proceeded immediately to apply for an emergency injunction to protect our client from further blackmail.
Victims of blackmail are often concerned that their identity would be revealed, should they decide to take legal action against their blackmailer. In cases of blackmail, it is common in both criminal and civil courts for the victims to be anonymised. This is often done in order to protect the identity of the victim.
Before proceeding any further, we applied for the identity of our client to be anonymised. This meant that there was no record of our client’s name on the court papers. Our client’s real name in relation to the legal proceedings was only known to our client’s legal team and to the judge.
Blackmail on Dating Website Legal Advice FAQ
Our client engaged in communication with a woman on the dating website Seeking Arrangement, which led to sexually explicit exchanges and subsequently, financial demands from the woman via PayPal. After identifying our client's personal details, she began an extensive blackmail campaign, demanding large sums of money and threatening to expose their communications, leading to significant distress and financial loss for our client.
While waiting for disclosure from website operators, our firm's extensive investigation and collaboration with a talented private investigator led to the identification of the blackmailer through a matching phone number. An emergency injunction was then applied for, and the court agreed to hear the application in a private hearing to protect our client's privacy.
Yes, victims of blackmail can remain anonymous. Before proceeding with the case, we applied for our client's identity to be anonymised, meaning their real name was only known to their legal team and the judge. This helps protect victims from further exposure and maintains their privacy throughout the legal process.
In cases of blackmail, lawyers can apply for an interim injunction without notifying the blackmailer, often in a private hearing to protect the victim's privacy. The injunctions are typically based on laws related to harassment and/or the misuse of private information, demonstrating that the victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the information being threatened for release.
When blackmail spans multiple jurisdictions, like in this case where the victim was in the USA and the blackmailer in the UK, it's crucial to establish which court has jurisdiction. Factors like the domicile of the defendant and the location of the victim are considered. Additionally, the legal team needs to address comparative law aspects and ensure that immediate and effective service of the injunction is made to cease the blackmail swiftly.
Yes. In case of blackmail, it is common to apply for an interim injunction without giving the blackmailer notice of the hearing. After we have successfully applied to anonymise our client, we proceeded to make the injunction application, without notice to the Defendant.
The reason for making an injunction application without notice in cases of blackmail is that there is often a concern that if the Defendant was to be given notice of the hearing, she might decide that she had no longer anything to lose or gain, and would, in turn, disclose the very same information that the injunction application is seeking to prevent.
Yes. It is possible to ask the judge to hear an application for an injunction in blackmail cases, as a private hearing. In this case we requested that the hearing for the injunction is made in private, in order to avoid the risk of the injunction application being reported by anyone in the public gallery or by the press. This is in order to protect the privacy of our client.
English law recognises that there were situations where the principles of open justice would be set aside. Those situations are restricted to where publicity would defeat the object of the hearing; the hearing involved confidential information and publicity would damage that confidentiality and /or the court considers that a private hearing was necessary in the interests of justice.
As this was a case of blackmail where the Defendant threatened to publish private information about our client, the blackmail injunction application was made on the basis of Harassment and the tort of Misuse of private information. There are no specific civil laws in the UK that relate to blackmail. Therefore, blackmail injunctions are made on the back of the law of harassment and/or the misuse of private information.
To be able to obtain a blackmail injunction for misuse of private information, we had to demonstrate that the information in question was information in which our client had a reasonable expectation of privacy. We have identified four instances of misuse of private information which relate to the following facts, which the injunction should make sure are not disclosed:
- The fact of our client visited the Seeking Arrangements website and his attempt to use the services offered by it.
- The fact that our client communicated with the Defendant regarding entering into an agreement and the content of their exchanges.
- The fact that their communications included sexually explicit messages and their content.
- The fact that our client was a victim of blackmail and information regarding that.
To be able to obtain the blackmail injunction under the harassment, in reliance on the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, we have identified the following grounds:
- The harassing nature of the Defendant’s blackmail demands.
- The persistent nature of her conduct.
Often, blackmail takes place over a number of jurisdictions. In this case, the blackmailer was from the UK whilst the victim of the blackmail was living in the USA. Which court, therefore has jurisdiction over the blackmail matter is something that the lawyer has to address with a court in every case where the blackmail occurs over more than one jurisdiction. Since our client was a US citizen and domiciled there, we had to address the English Court's jurisdiction over the matter.
By the Recast Brussels Regulation Article 7, the UK court has jurisdiction if the Defendant is domiciled in the jurisdiction. That was in fact the case. We further had to address the issue of comparative law, as in harassment cases, the venue of where the harassment is committed is often the place where the victim is located rather than the Defendant. Under English law, there is a presumption that foreign law is the same as English law (or that it yields the same result).
It would be surprising if, whatever system of law was applicable, blackmail would be considered as lawful conduct. Immediately following the grant of the blackmail injunction, we had it served in person on the Defendant. This brought an immediate abrupt end to our client’s ordeal. Our client noted that he wished he had taken this step some time ago and that the delay in contacting lawyers in the UK had caused him unnecessary financial and personal distress.
Case studies are based on true cases where names, dates and circumstances have often been amended to protect the identity of those involved.