A BLACKMAILER carried out a “vicious and prolonged” campaign in “revenge” for third-party hearsay allegations made about his vulnerable victim.

Posing as a friend, Derek Briggs was responsible for fabricating fictitious allegations against the complainant, who believed he was the subject of litigation which could result in him being placed on the sex offenders’ register.

Durham Crown Court heard Briggs forged realistic-looking legal documents to back up the narrative he was creating.

It resulted in his victim paying £760 ‘legal fees’, unaware that the money was pocketed by Briggs, believing he still owed a further £4,050 to complete a settlement.

He became almost housebound, withdrawing himself from public life, fearing he was facing prosecution, having fallen for what he was told by Briggs, who he believed was acting on his behalf.

Paul Abrahams, prosecution, said the victim, who had significant health and mobility issues, contemplated committing suicide, by drowning himself in a river.

The vindictive three-month campaign only came to light after the victim confided in close friends about the trouble he believed he was in, urging them not to say anything as he had signed a non-disclosure order, created by Briggs, which threatened further action if anything was revealed publicly.

Mr Abrahams said: “Fortunately, they had the good sense to contact the police and the defendant was arrested on June 29, last year.”

Upon arrest Briggs told police: “It’s all me. It started as a joke and just snowballed.”

He made admissions in interview, saying he acted out of “revenge” after hearing the unproven allegations about the complainant.

Briggs, 61, of Mitford Close, Chester-le-Street, who has no previous convictions, admitted a charge of blackmail.

David Lamb, mitigating, said Briggs acted as he did believing what he had been told about the complainant.

Mr Lamb said the former soldier, who gave 14 years Army service, was diagnosed bipolar in 2010 and believes his resulting mood swings “disinhibited” him and played a part in his reaction on hearing the allegations.

He added that instead of enjoying his impending retirement, the defendant now faces his first ever prison sentence.

Judge James Adkin described his actions as, “calculated revenge”, causing deliberate psychological harm.

“What is abundantly clear is you engaged in a vicious and prolonged blackmail campaign.”

Judge Adkin said Briggs appeared to have “revelled” in the distress his victim was experiencing and, “dug the knife in”, by sustaining it for as long as he did.

Imposing a 26-month prison sentence, he also made Briggs subject of a restraining order forbidding him from contacting or approaching the victim for life.