A KENDAL man has been jailed for more than three years after blackmailing a "respected member of the local community" over his secret gay sex life.

David Ellis, 33, sent three seperate letters to his victim, who is married to a woman, demanding £7,500 in cash in return for his silence, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

He added that if the man - who a Crown Court Judge ruled can only be referred to as "a respected member of the local community" - did not pay up, he would tell the press, the police and the man's family and workmates about his secret habit of visiting public toilets for gay sex.

In the first letter, sent on July 7 last year, Ellis, who runs his own firm as a qualified electrician, wrote: "Everyone thinks you're respectable - but you're a pervert and you associate with perverts. I have followed you through town."

At a previous court appearance the court heard that although the man's wife was aware of his sexuality and had reached "an accommodation" with him over it, he was "considerably distressed" by the thought of other people finding out.

Ellis, 33, of Shap Road, Kendal, was arrested after his DNA was found on the envelopes in which the letters had been posted.

When police searched his home computer they also found a draft of one of the letters, "identical writing paper to that used in the blackmail and the tape he had used in his work van". They also found envelopes "very similar to the ones used".

Further searches of Ellis' computer uncovered 185 images of "extreme pornography."

Ellis initially denied the three charges of blackmail, but did admit he knew of his victim "because of the complainant's position in the community. "He indicated he was a respected man."

He later told police he had not carried out the blackmail for financial gain, but because of what he now admits was "a probably wholly unrealistic risk that he was concerned about his son coming into contact with the complainant."

"He now realises the anxiety he caused to the complainant must have been immense," the court was told.

When the "extreme pornography" was discovered Ellis admitted he had viewed the images, but told police he had done so out of interest rather than sexual gratification.

"He sometimes works in an environment where such images are shown in an attempt at building site humour," the court was told.

Judge Peter Hughes QC sentenced Ellis to three years three months imprisonment for the three counts of blackmail and four months imprisonment to be served concurrently for possessing extreme pornography.

"Blackmail is a very serious matter - it is a nasty and pernicious crime,” he said. "The blackmailer attacks his victim by seeking to expose his vulnerability.”