Two former directors who blackmailed the founder of a company while they were in post have avoided going behind bars.

Michael John Potter and John Price made financial demands to founding director Nicholas Dimmock during a 350 PPM Ltd online board meeting.

Potter and Price, both aged 62, were found guilty of a single charge of blackmail following a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court in March.

Appearing in the dock for sentencing on May 23, Judge William Mousley KC told the defendants: “This was an offence for financial gain and it did involve some planning.”

The court heard Bournemouth-based 350 PPM Ltd is a company which brokers deals for environmental schemes by matching projects with investors.

The defendants were appointed as directors in September 2019 and January 2020, respectively.

Judge Mousley KC said 51-year-old Mr Dimmock disclosed to Potter and Price that he had got into trouble with the Financial Conduct Authority some time ago and he remained anxious about this.

By spring 2020 there had been a falling out between Mr Dimmock and the defendants, with each side blaming the other for this.

Mr Dimmock told the men they were fired but he did not have the power to do this, the court heard. The defendants would have to agree to leave or go through a legal process.

Bournemouth Echo:

In May 2020, Mr Dimmock wrote to them to propose a settlement for them to leave their posts and they responded through a solicitor the following month.

The board meeting took place over Zoom on July 29, 2020, in which the defendants made demands of what they wanted to leave and what they would need to stay in post, or they would take allegations about Mr Dimmock to the regulatory authorities, Judge Mousley KC said.

The judge said what they said and alleged during the meeting "clearly had been agreed by you both" before the video call.

Dean Armstrong KC, representing both defendants, described the facts of the case as “highly unusual” and unlike blackmail proceedings that typically came before the criminal courts.

Mr Armstrong KC said there was no violence and the menace by the men, who were of previous good character, was going to whistle blow to authorities with their allegations.

He said it was the crown’s case that the defendants' conduct in the Zoom meeting “crossed the line”.

There had been a “complete relationship breakdown” between the parties before the blackmail due the background of the pandemic and a lack of trust, the court heard.

The proceedings had led to a “complete loss of career”, “financial ruin” and “social humiliation” for his clients, Mr Armstrong KC said.

Judge Mousley KC said the defendants previously had long and distinguished careers before the blackmail conviction “damaged if not shattered” their professional standing.

Potter, of Elm Bank Gardens, London, and Price, of High Street, Eastleigh, were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a requirement to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.

Companies House says they both resigned from the company in September 2020.