Internet Fraud – Punishments Reflect the Emotional Harm Inflicted on Victims


Young women are particularly vulnerable to entrapment by internet fraudsters who make bogus promises of lucrative modelling contracts. As a Court of Appeal ruling made plain, perpetrators of such mean-spirited offences can expect to receive punishments that fully reflect the emotional harm inflicted on their victims.

An 18-year-old woman was targeted by a young man who had been at school with her but who had never spoken to her. Having created a number of fake social media accounts, including one which was designed to closely resemble that of a well-known modelling agency, he convinced her that she had been assessed as suitable to work as a lingerie model.

She was persuaded to send him photographs of herself, beginning with her face and progressing, via underwear and toplessness, to full nudity. The man subsequently contacted her to say that he had hacked into the agency’s computer system and obtained intimate photographs of her. He said that he was prepared to publish them online and distribute them around the town where she lived unless she obeyed his demand for more nude images.

After she went to the police, the man, who was later diagnosed with social phobia and potentially atypical autism, flatly denied any wrongdoing. Only after his mobile phones were subjected to detailed forensic examination did he confess. He eventually pleaded guilty to fraud – a further charge of blackmail was not proceeded with – and received a prison sentence of two years and nine months.

Dismissing his appeal against that sentence, the Court acknowledged that the case was unusual in that the woman had sustained no financial loss. However, the harm to her could not be equated to any monetary value. The impact on her was something far worse than that and, in a sense, something that money cannot buy or put right. He had made numerous fraudulent representations, under various different guises, and the level of his culpability had rightly been assessed as high.

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