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Naked photo blackmail sentencing

Last updated 13:28 14/06/2012

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A Nelson man who met a woman on social networking site Bebo tried to blackmail her into having sex with him after she sent him naked photos of herself.

Samuel Mark Nicholls, 19, was sentenced in the High Court in Nelson yesterday to 12 months' supervision and 200 hours' community service after earlier admitting a blackmail charge.

The sickness beneficiary must also undertake a full psychological assessment and attend treatment as a special condition of his sentence.

Justice Jill Mallon said Nicholls and his female victim, who is now 17, both had profiles on Bebo and met online in 2010.

They became friends on the site, exchanged phone numbers and started exchanging text messages.
They met once in person and when Nicholls asked the complainant to send naked photos of herself, she sent two.

Nicholls sent his victim more than 20 messages on August 9 last year, when he was 18, and threatened to share the naked photographs with other people.

Nicholls said that he would delete them if she visited his place and had sex with him, but the complainant said she had a boyfriend and was not willing to do that.

Nicholls then told her to send someone else to have sex with him, or he would share the photographs.
The victim said she didn't know anyone who could do that and reported Nicholls to the police. Her victim impact statement said the incident made her feel upset and angry.

Nicholls' defence lawyer Tony Bamford said his client was "still relatively young and immature" and recognised that he had issues to deal with.

"He acknowledges that his behaviour was entirely inappropriate and that it caused the victim distress."

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said "the goal is to try and prevent Mr Nicholls from ruining his own life and possibly others in the future".

Mr Webber suggested a sentence of 12 months' supervision and 200 hours of community service, which Justice Mallon accepted.

The maximum penalty for blackmail is 14 years' imprisonment, but Justice Mallon said Nicholls' actions were at the "lower end of the blackmail range of offending".

She said an electronically-monitored sentence would interfere with activities he was involved in, such as working as a stage manager for a youth theatre company and volunteering at Nelson Giants games in exchange for tickets.

Justice Mallon said Nicholls accepted his offending was "stupid", but stressed the need for rehabilitation.
She said that he risked prison if he did not address his behavioural issues.

"The goal here is to try and avoid you doing something again that may ruin your life and or possibly someone else's," Justice Mallon said.

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- Nelson

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