A SEASONED criminal has avoided a jail term after allowing thousands of pounds which had been obtained via blackmail to rest in his bank account.

Keith Gibbins, of Bridge Place, Manningtree, appeared in Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, he admitted one charge of converting criminal property by arranging the proceeds of blackmail, namely £2,200, to be paid into his bank account.

It was accepted, however, that although 63-year-old Gibbins knew the money had been obtained by criminal means, he did not know the sum was sourced specifically through blackmail.

The court heard how Gibbins, who has a litany of theft convictions dating as far back as the 1970s, allowed three separate payments of £400, £900, and £900 to rest in his account between April and June 2020.

That money had been obtained through blackmailing a victim, John Ling.

Mark Mullen, prosecuting, told the court how Gibbins attempted to evade the police when they sought to arrest him in June 2020, and when he did hand himself in, he had deliberately left his phone in an abandoned car.

Jason Tipple and Barry Bond, who were accused of being accomplices to Gibbins, were both cleared in October of conspiracy to blackmail and conspiracy to convert criminal property; Stevie Titler was cleared of the one charge of conspiracy to convert criminal property.

Mr Mullen said: “It’s to do with the relationships as [Gibbins] is the oldest member of the group and it is a family affair.”

Judge Godfrey added: “It seems others went to [Gibbins] and consulted him as an older member of the extended family, and he then provided the assistance that he did.”

Addressing Gibbins, Judge Godfrey said: “What you did was get yourself involved in a scheme to obtain money from John Ling.

“Associates of yours went to you for assistance to launder the proceeds, [but] I do not sentence you as a blackmailer.

“You allowed your account to be used by your associates in the period from March to June 2020 – you received £2,200 which you knew to be proceeds of crime.”

Judge Godfrey sentenced Gibbins to a 22-week sentence, suspended for nine months, and ordered him to pay £500 in compensation to Mr Ling.