A Hampton Magna man who believed PAYE had been wrongly deducted from his wages forced his boss to transfer £1,000 into his bank account - threatening to ‘burn the place down’ if he refused.
Despite his frightening ordeal, Joshua Scott’s victim did not go to the police until the next day, hoping he would come to his senses in the meantime and return the money.
But he did not, and Scott (28) of Hayward Close, Hampton Magna, near Warwick, was jailed for two years after eventually pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of blackmail.
Prosecutor Graham Russell said Scott had worked on a temporary basis for TGM Midlands Ltd, which makes automated gates, before being taken on full-time in August last year.
But on October 28 his boss Leigh Coulam-Kelsall arrived at the Warwick-based company with his two dogs to find Scott and another employee were already there.
Scott accused his boss of not correctly paying his PAYE, and demanded £1,000 he believed he was owed.
Mr Coulam-Kelsall tried to explain to him that because Scott had not properly provided his National Insurance number, he had to make deductions at the emergency rate until it was sorted.
He suggested they go into his office so he could show Scott what the situation was.
But as soon as they got into the office, Scott snatched Mr Coulam-Kelsall’s phone and said he would keep it until he received £1,000.
“The defendant was ranting and raving, and he opened a back door, which let in the dogs, and stormed out, but came back with a red petrol can,” said Mr Russell.
The other employee who was there tried to reason with him, telling him he was going too far, but to no avail.
Once he was back in the office, he threatened to take one of the dogs unless he was paid – although Scott does not accept making that threat, pointed out Mr Russell.
“But what followed is that he threatened that if he was not given the money, he would burn the place down with Mr Coulam-Kelsall in it.
“By that time David Coulam-Kelsall, who also has a managerial role, had arrived and attempted to reason with the defendant who at one stage said ‘let’s make it £2,000.’
“Leigh Coulam-Kelsall did indeed make a bank transfer of £1,000 to the defendant’s account, having been given his phone back to do so.”
And after checking on his own phone to confirm that the transfer had taken place, Scott handed over the keys to his works van and left.
Scott had been considered to be a good employee, and Mr Coulam-Kelsall did not report the incident to the police until the following day to give him a chance to come to his senses.
When he was questioned after his arrest, Scott maintained the company had been wrongly ‘pocketing’ £70 a week from his wages because the Job Centre was still paying his National Insurance.
Scott, who had previous convictions for theft from an employer and excess alcohol, denied making threats to burn the place down, but did accept taking the petrol can into the office and waving it around.
A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to attend a previous court hearing, and he then denied the charge, but changed his plea at a later hearing.
Clare Evans, defending, said: “He has said repeatedly how sorry he is. He went about what he believed was a genuine grievance in a way which was in no way appropriate.
“He’s a man who is not very well able to cope in stress situations. He had no intention of doing it, but he wanted them to believe he would.
“He is ashamed at his complete and utter over-reaction. He has made a terrible mistake, but it was a one-off.”
Jailing Scott, Judge Anthony Potter observed that a former Lord Chancellor had described blackmail as ‘one of the ugliest and most vicious offences.’
And he told Scott: “You were demanding money you believed you were owed. You began to make demands, first for £1,000 and then for £2,000 and at the time you had a petrol can and were shaking it.
“Whether or not a verbal threat was made, you were clearly threatening to burn the office where Mr Leigh Kelsall was, causing harm to him and to his partner in the business.
“Leigh Kelsall was so intimidated and so frightened at what you might do that he transferred £1,000 into your account, and this is not the first time you have acted in a criminal manner towards and employer.”