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It is legitimate to bring some pressure to bear on trade debtors to encourage them to pay up – but one case vividly revealed why such matters really are best left to the professionals. The Court of Appeal imposed jail terms on two self-appointed debt collectors whose strong arm tactics amounted to blackmail.
A landscape gardener was beset by financial problems and one of his companies had been placed in liquidation. The two men knew one of his creditors and turned up at his office to demand £8,000. One of them leaned over his desk and threatened him with violence if he did not pay. The gardener was reduced to tears as the other man produced a truncheon which he tapped on his desk.
The two men were subsequently sentenced to suspended terms of imprisonment after pleading guilty to blackmail. However, in referring the case for review by the Court, the Solicitor General argued that their sentences were unduly lenient. He pointed out that, after the gardener parted with the money, it was used to pay off one of the men’s credit card bill, rather than to satisfy his creditor.
In upholding the Solicitor General’s application, the Court noted that menaces had been made and a weapon shown. It was a bad case of its kind and akin to robbery. The Court replaced the men’s suspended sentences with immediate jail terms of three years and four months and two years and 10 months.