A Hartlepool woman who blackmailed a vulnerable man out of £40,000 has been handed a jail sentence on appeal.
Sharon Mincher, 45, was given a two-year suspended sentence for the extortion, which went on for 15 years, but the Court of Appeal has ruled it is not enough and today sentenced her to an immediate prison term of five years.
Mincher, 45, targeted, befriended and exploited the older man for money over an extended period of time. When the victim attempted to refuse her demands for money, she threatened to report him to the police for rape.
She pleaded guilty in Teesside Crown Court in May this year to an offence of blackmail and of stalking and received a 24-month suspended sentence, with a 12-month drug treatment programme.
However, after a referral by the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, the Court of Appeal today ruled she should spend five years behind bars.
Speaking after the hearing, the Attorney General said: "Mincher has a long history of offending, with dozens of previous convictions for more than 180 offences. Her offences in this case took place over a number of years and involved her taking a large amount of money from a vulnerable man.
“Given her history, along with the very serious impact her most recent crimes had on her victim, I did not believe that a suspended sentence was warranted.”
At the original hearing Teesside Crown Court heard that Mincher, of Church Street, had more than 100 convictions on her record when she targeted the man and said she needed the money for drugs.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced financial difficulties and had been left with credit card debts due to the blackmail.
Teesside Crown Court also heard that Mincher had a previous conviction for blackmail, three previous convictions for fraud, and 109 previous convictions for theft.
Her defence said Mincher had since turned her life around and was engaging with drug support workers in the town more than ever before.
The Recorder, David Dobbin, who sentenced Mincher to two years in prison, suspended for two years, including a drug rehabilitation treatment and testing programme, said: "This was serious offending committed over a long period of time, against a vulnerable man who felt unable to resist you as some might.
"You have since made efforts to seek treatment for your drugs problems.
"The Probation Service, who know you well, confirm the advances you have made.
"It is because of those efforts that I can suspend the inevitable prison sentence.”
Mincher was also made the subject of a restraining order banning her indefinitely from contacting her victim.