Man convicted of 'premeditated and ongoing' blackmail

A Central Otago man has been convicted of blackmail after what a judge says was a misguided attempt to right a past wrong.

Ten months after his first court appearance, name suppression has lapsed for Dayle Graeme Stephen.

The 49-year-old, who court documents say lives in Ettrick, was sentenced on a charge of blackmail in the Queenstown District Court on Monday.

Suppression orders prevent the Otago Daily Times reporting on Stephen’s motive for the offending, and the identities of his co-offender and victim.

The police summary of facts say on December 4, 2022, Stephen used a new cellphone with a prepaid card to call the victim.

Without identifying himself, he told the victim he knew their address, partner’s name and how many children they had, and said they needed to "redeem themselves" for an alleged crime committed with two others in Queenstown 14 years earlier.

If the victim hung up, he and the co-offender would go to their home and tell their partner and children.

The defendant told the victim to "get their chequebook out" and say how much they were willing to pay to "get the matter off their chest".

The victim replied they would not be paying any money as they were not involved in the alleged crime.

They said it was a "matter for the police" and hung up.

When Stephen then sent more than 20 text messages repeating his threats, the victim blocked the number.

That prompted the defendant to call the victim’s partner, leaving a voice message saying he was trying to contact the victim.

The next day, he used a different cellphone to send more threatening messages to the victim.

He called four more times over the next three months, telling the victim there was a "case to be made" against them.

When police first contacted Stephen about the matter, he admitted his involvement, saying "I was a wee bit hot headed I was pretty f . . . ed off by the storey (sic)".

In a later police interview, he refused to comment.

Counsel Louise Denton said the offending was not motivated by financial gain, but was instead an attempt to get compensation for his co-offender for a past wrong.

The pair should have gone to the police rather than take the actions they did, Ms Denton said.

The appropriate starting point for sentencing was eight months’ imprisonment, which she asked to be converted to a non-custodial sentence, along with community work.

The offending had already cost the defendant his firearms licence, and a conviction would jeopardise his ability to renew his skipper’s licence.

Judge Catriona Doyle said the "premeditated and ongoing" offending had caused an enormous impact on the victim, both mentally and physically.

"You accept you went about this entirely the wrong way."

In mitigation, he had no previous convictions, and was highly regarded by his employer.

She sentenced him to 350 hours’ community work, and ordered him to pay the victim $1500 reparation for emotional harm.