England, Wales experience record-breaking number of blackmail crimes

Something of a blackmailing epidemic appears to be taking place in the United Kingdom.

Yahoo News reports that in England and Wales, a record number of blackmail offenses were reported last year. 

The numbers

Yahoo News based its report on new figures from the Home Office. The figures show during the last recorded period, which was from 2021 to 2022, police forces recorded 22,064 blackmail offenses.

That is over 6,000 more blackmail offenses than police recorded during the previous year, from 2020 to 2021, and it is more than double the number of blackmail offenses recorded by police during the year prior to that, 2019 to 2020.

The Cumbria Constabulary saw some of the worst figures with about 6.7 blackmail offenses committed for every 10,000 people. That’s the highest rate in all of England and Wales.

The crime

Under the relevant law, in England and Wales, “a person is guilty of blackmail if, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces.” A person guilty of blackmail could face up to 14 years in prison.

Although we know the number of blackmails carried out, we do not know specifics about each case. We do not, for example, know what types of blackmail were committed.

The National Crime Agency reports that webcam blackmail, where victims are tricked into performing sexual acts on video, is becoming an increasing threat.

Reports indicate that only 1% of the 20,360 blackmail reports resulted in a charge or summons. In the majority of cases — 59% — no suspect was identified.

The “why?”

Another question altogether is why, all of a sudden, England and Wales’s blackmail numbers went through the roof.

Charity Victim Support has suggested that the significant increase could be the result of victims feeling more empowered to come forward. Others suggest that the COVID pandemic may have had something to do with it, as lockdowns led to people spending a lot more time on social media, dating apps, and the like, where blackmailing is more prevalent.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council, however, suggests that the increase is merely the result of improvements in the recording of such crimes.

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