Cyberbully sentenced for blackmail

A cyberbully who threatened to name and shame a woman who wanted posts removed from his website has had the tables turned on him.

Henricus Geradus Van Helmond, 52, of Woodville, asked the woman for $2000 when she told him she had legal advice about deleting her posts, leading to him being charged with blackmail.

Justice Joe Williams in the High Court in Wellington told him there was a certain poetic justice in doing to him what he had threatened to do to the victim.

In a highly emotional statement the victim, whose name is suppressed, said: "He didn't hold a gun to my head, he held a computer, and it was more soul-destroying than a bullet."

She blamed her declining health on Van Helmond. She had contact with Van Helmond through two websites that were critical of Child Youth and Family. She had been having difficulties over care of her grandchildren and made posts to the website.

Van Helmond took the websites down in 2010 but put them back up in 2012.

Justice Williams said in the meantime the victim's relationship with CYF had improved and she was distressed to learn her posts could still be seen. She was concerned it could undermine what she had built up with CYF.

He said she asked Van Helmond to take her posts down.

"You responded in an extraordinarily aggressive way, I have seen the emails.''

Van Helmond threatened to report her lawyer to the law society and said he would name and shame her through the website with personal information unless they paid $1000 each to himself and another of the website's administrators.

"You got on your high horse and began firing threats to bully her to go away.''

Justice Williams said he breached the victim's trust, and the effect on her was palpable in the court when she read her victim impact statement.

He said the offending had an element of naivety.

"This was not planned Hollywood style blackmail, rather a spur-of-the-moment aggressive threat.  It was stupid but not evil.''

He ordered Van Helmond to do 200 hours community work but warned him about offending through a computer again.

The judge took into account that Van Helmond had multiple sclerosis and diabetes and his hypoglycaemia could have led him to be more aggressive.

Van Helmond's lawyer Fergus Steedman told the judge his client had always believed that the woman was bluffing about having a lawyer and that he could not blackmail a non-existent person.

All references to the victim had now gone from the websites.

Van Helmond previously made headlines when he claimed his Twitter account was hacked to send death threats to former MP Sue Bradford.

He was convicted in 2010 of breaching a suppression order by revealing the identity of a high-profile political figure who appeared in a family court over abuse allegations.

The Dominion Post