A TAXI passenger tried to profit from the chance find of a mobile phone by threatening to make public the owner’s transgender history.

But Jamie Devlin’s attempt to coerce the owner into paying £200 for the return of the phone landed him behind bars, after he fell for a police trap.

Unknown to Devlin, the victim reported his threats and a ‘rendezvous’ was arranged for the return of the phone and payment of the extortion money.

But, after revealing what he would be wearing for the handover, police were waiting for Devlin at the appointed time and location, in Dipton, near Stanley, and he was arrested.

Durham Crown Court heard that the victim left the phone in the taxi after taking a journey home from Newcastle to Consett with a friend on March 2.

Joanne Kidd, prosecuting, said half-an-hour later Devlin and three friends were picked up as the next fare by the same taxi driver.

Devlin found the phone which had been left in the cab.

The following day the male friend of the phone owner received a text from Devlin saying he knew he had a girlfriend and that he had been “sh***ing that tranny prossy”.

Miss Kidd said the concerned recipient of the text contacted the phone owner, a former man who previously changed his name by deed poll and underwent transgender surgery to now live as a woman.

“It was made clear that whoever sent the text was aware of her previous name.”

Contact was made with Devlin, who refused to reveal his identity but put on a fake Scottish accent.

When the return of the phone was mentioned, Devlin made a crude suggestion as to sexual favours the owner would have to perform on him and his friends to get it back.

Miss Kidd said further text messages were made in which Devlin said unless he was paid £200, “everyone will find out your secret” and that he would reveal it “all over” via social media.

It was then that the fearful woman decided to speak to police and the ‘transaction’ was arranged.

Devlin, 20, of Berry Edge Road, Consett, made initial denials of responsibility in an initial interview with police, but at an earlier hearing pleaded ‘guilty’ to a charge of blackmail.

Andrew Finlay, mitigating, said it was not a pre-planned crime as the phone was found by chance and the attempt to make money from it was “opportunistic”.

Judge Simon Hickey said there was an element of it being a hate crime by the use of the term “tranny prossie”.

Jailing him for two years and four months, Judge Hickey said such hostility to a person of transgender has had a profound effect on the victim who was physically sick at the thought that the threats to reveal her past would be carried through by Devlin.

The judge also ordered him to pay a £120 victim surcharge.