Self-proclaimed influencer confessed to blackmailing a man
A self-proclaimed social media influencer, Sophie Stephens, was given a combination order of 100 hours of community service and two years of probation for blackmail. The 22-year-old from Belfast was charged for threatening to expose online sexual activity she had with a man to his friends, family, and colleagues. The incident occurred on 26 July 2021, and Stephens was sentenced by Judge Patrick McGurgan.
The court heard that the man and Stephens started communicating on Instagram, then Snapchat, with their conversations turning sexual. The man paid Stephens £40 for videos of her, and when they agreed to meet face to face, she demanded £200 from him, threatening to expose their sexual conversations otherwise. Terrified by the threat, the man contacted the police, and Stephens was arrested. During police interviews, she admitted to sending the demands and threats, claiming that she wanted to scare the man because she thought he was sharing explicit videos of her. However, she assured that she never intended to carry out the threat.
Judge McGurgan labelled blackmail as a “serious offense” and acknowledged that it must have caused the man considerable stress and anxiety. He considered the defence submissions, including Stephens’ background of an unsettled life, sporadic work, depression, and voluntary work with the Red Cross, as well as the assessment of Probation, which stated that Stephens presented a low likelihood of re-offending. The judge revealed that Stephens claimed to have deleted all her social media accounts and was no longer engaged in such activity. Based on these factors, the combination order was imposed.
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