A man who sent sexually explicit and threatening letters to air hostesses at Gatwick has had his eight-year jail term halved.

Keith Downer, 42, of Tadworth, Surrey, pleaded guilty to eight counts of blackmail at Chichester Crown Court on November 10 last year.

In the Court of Appeal in London, Mr Justice Rougier rejected pleas for Downer's immediate release but ruled that the original jail term was "much too high".

The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Roch and Mr Justice Gray, said: "The offences were of a particularly unpleasant nature."

Between November 1997 and July last year, Downer sent blackmail letters to five women, four of whom were stewardesses working at Gatwick.

Mr Justice Rougier added: "He demanded that they do various sexually oriented, highly unusual and unpleasant things and threatened them with sado-masochistic violence if they did not comply with his wishes.

"It is sufficient to say that they were explicit and quite horrible and must have engendered in their recipients considerable fear, even if they were all of them sensible enough to go straight to the police."

But the judge said jail terms of between four and five years seemed to be the norm in blackmail cases.

He rejected arguments that Downer should be freed immediately to undergo treatment.

But he said: "We think that in all the circumstances these sentences were much too high."