A woman who blackmailed her ex-boyfriend’s new partner by posting a topless picture of her online has avoided a jail term.
Stacey Burton, 23, of Ballarat, pleaded guilty to blackmail as well as a string of summary charges and has been sentenced to 300 hours of unpaid community work.
The court heard that after Burton’s ex-boyfriend Codie Carter found a new girlfriend, she threatened the woman on Facebook Messenger in March 2019.
“Give me my money back that Codie owes me! He’s had a year to pay it back and hasn’t I want my $5200 back today. So sort it out with him like now. Or everyone will see more then your ugly f—ing head online,” the message said.
Six months later, Burton posted a topless photo of Mr Carter’s new girlfriend on Snapchat, where it remained for 30 minutes and users were able to take screenshots of it.
After the victim reported Burton to police, Burton told detectives she had posted the photo because she was angry, but later felt bad and removed it.
“You deliberately sought to shame and embarrass the victim who you viewed as a rival for Mr Carter’s affections,” Judge Mark Gamble told Burton in the County Court on Wednesday.
Judge Gamble said Burton’s victim was ashamed and had become isolated due to the online photo.
“She lives in constant fear that someone will see the image and recognise her,” he said.
In October 2020 Burton contacted her victim again on Facebook Messenger, saying “Congratulations you win. He chooses you.”
Burton also posted a “very hurtful and disparaging” message to Mr Carter’s mother’s Facebook page, suggesting he may not be the father of his new girlfriend’s unborn child.
Judge Gamble said the sentencing task had been difficult given that Burton was “quite young and still relatively immature”, but her offences were of a serious nature.
“I am left with a very strong view that you are not truly remorseful,” he said.
But he noted that she lost her job at Vicroads after news of the case came out, and said this was already a form of punishment.
Burton’s early guilty plea meant she received a significant discount on her sentence, due to a backlog in the courts system caused by the pandemic.
The judge told Burton that if she failed to comply with the conditions of the community service order she faced “the very real prospect of being sent to prison”.