Derek Rose's attempt to blackmail ex-girlfriend Tamara Ecclestone is the work of a scumbag, but should it be illegal?

If it’s legal to behave like a monster, how can it be a crime to ask for a payment not to?

Share
Fact File
  • £200,000 The amount Derek Rose tried to extort

Derek Rose, who got a four-year jail sentence yesterday for blackmailing Tamara Ecclestone, does not sound like a charming man. Rose, who dated the Formula One heiress a decade ago, more recently tried to extort money from her by suggesting that he had been offered a substantial sum by a tabloid for his story, and asking if she might be prepared to make a counter-bid. The tabloid offer was fiction, but Rose was nonetheless hoping to get £200,000. All of this is obviously the behaviour of a complete scumbag.

But should it really be a crime? All our instincts say yes, but it’s less clear-cut than it appears. Consider another example. Let’s say that Rose is, in fact, ready to sign a deal with a red-top; but instead of going to his ex and offering her the chance to come up with a better proposal, he goes ahead and spills his guts to the gutter press. He’s committed no crime. And yet the consequences for Tamara Ecclestone are probably worse. At least in the first scenario she has the chance to keep this information private if she thinks it’s worth it. This time, her privacy has been heinously breached and she just has to put up with it. To put it another way: if it’s legal to behave like a monster, how can it be illegal to ask for a payment not to?

There was a real-life example of this yesterday when the comedian Jason Manford found his “SEX TEXT SHAME” splashed across the front page of The Sun. And if you’re blinded to the legal quandary by all this celebrity grot, think about your beloved grandmother’s brooch. Someone has got the brooch by legal means, and intends to sell it. You want the chance to buy it, even if the price is extortionately high, right? It might be ethically dubious to charge you a premium, but does it really make sense for it to be a breach of the law?

In the end, there’s only one inviolable defence of the law on blackmail, and it’s inviolable mostly because it’s irrational: this act makes us shudder, and we don’t want it to become an ordinary transaction. We feel that society is made a little more shabby for all of us if no one faces censure for doing something so obviously cruel, calculating, and greedy. Logical or not, this is just about enough for me.

It raises another troubling question, though, and one I can’t quite answer. If we all agree that blackmail should be barred, why shouldn’t selling someone out to a newspaper be barred? If Tamara Ecclestone should be protected from Derek Rose, why shouldn’t Jason Manford be protected from The Sun? There may be no case for a change in the law. But anyone who nods appreciatively at the news that Rose has got his just deserts should think twice before clucking their disapproval at the behaviour of that foolish comedian.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Silhouette of clubber dancing Hacienda nightclub  

A comedian has opened an alcohol-free nightclub. Is he having a laugh?

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape