Factors to be proven in order to establish Robbery

Section 8 Theft Act 1968

The criminal offence of robbery is contained within Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968. The criminal offence of robbery is a type of aggravated theft in which the offence of theft will be established plus there will be some force or threat of force on another person.

When will the criminal offence of robbery occur?

Under Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968 a person will be guilty of the criminal offence of robbery if they steal, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses forces on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

What elements need to be established in order to find the criminal offence of robbery?

The following elements need to be established in order to find the criminal offence of robbery:

  • That an individual steals
  • Immediately before or at the time of stealing
  • Use of force or threat of force
  • On any person
  • Use / threat of force in order to steal

That an individual steals

In order to prove that an individual has stolen something it is necessary that all of the elements of the criminal offence of theft have to be established.

Accordingly as robbery is a type of aggravated theft it is therefore necessary to first establish that there has been a theft.

Immediately before or at the time of stealing

In order for the offence of robbery to be proven the force that the individual uses in order to steal the property is required to happen immediately before or at the time of stealing.

What happens if an individual has stolen something and has it in their possession but uses force to escape?

The offence of theft will be complete as soon as the appropriation has taken place. This means that once an individual has the article in their possession the offence will have occurred. This therefore means that if a strict interpretation of the offence is taken use of force to escape with stolen property would fall outside the scope of the offence.

In this situation, however, the courts have taken a pragmatic and purposeful approach treating the appropriation as a continuing act. This means that any force used to escape with stolen property will amount to robbery.

Use of force or threat of force

Is there a specific required level of force?

How much force is to be required in order to establish whether the criminal offence of robbery has taken place is a question to be decided upon by the jury.

Is there any guidance given by the Theft Act as to what is meant by force in order to prove a robbery?

There is no guidance provided by the Theft Act as to what is the meaning of force. In certain cases this force has often been seen as minimal.

If the jury finds that use of force is minimal is this likely to be upheld on appeal?

In cases whereby the jury has found that minimal force amounts to robbery it is unlikely that this will be overturned on appeal. The Court of Appeal is often unwilling to interfere with juries’ findings in relation to the criminal offence of robbery.

Does the force have to be applied directly to a person?

Unlike other criminal offences such as the offences against the person there is no requirement for the use of force for robbery to be directly applied to a person.

In order to steal

Section 8 of the Theft Act contains a requirement that the use or threat of force is used in order to steal.

What does this mean?

This effectively means that if an individual uses a large amount of violence at the time of stealing an article but this violence is not used in order to steal the article then taking a strict view of the offence this would not be a criminal act of robbery although it would be theft.

It therefore follows that if one person applies force to another with the intent to do Grievous Bodily Harm subsequently knocks that person unconscious and decides to steal his wallet would not be guilty of the criminal offence of robbery.  This is a point taken on a strict view of the statute however.

Is there a requirement on the defendant to have some form of intention to commit robbery?

The required intention to prove the offence of robbery is that the defendant must have the required intention for theft. This means that it must have been done dishonestly with an intention to permanently deprive.

What is the maximum prison sentence for robbery?

The maximum prison sentence for robbery is life imprisonment.