Factors to be proven in order to establish Robbery

Section 8 Theft Act 1968

The criminal offence of robbery is contained within s 8 of the Theft Act 1968 (TA 1968). It 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 s 8 of TA 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 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.

Elements of robbery

If they steal

To prove that an individual has stolen something, it is necessary that all the elements of the criminal offence of theft are established.

Under s 1 of TA 1968, a person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. It is irrelevant whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit.

Under s 2 of TA 1968, a person is not dishonest if he honestly believed he was entitled in law to the property; if he takes the property believing he would have the other’s consent if they knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it; or if he takes the property believing the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

Immediately before or at the time of stealing

Under TA 1968, for the offence of robbery to be proven, the force the individual uses to steal the property is required to happen immediately before or at the time of stealing. Ostensibly then, the 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 approach and have treated the appropriation as a continuing act (R v Hale (1978)). This means any force used to escape with stolen property will amount to robbery.

Use of force or threat of force

How much force is to be required to establish whether the criminal offence of robbery has taken place is a question to be decided by the jury.
There is no guidance provided by TA 1968 as to what is the meaning of force. In some cases this force has often been seen as minimal.

Where the jury has found that minimal force amounts to robbery, it is unlikely this will be overturned on appeal. The Court of Appeal has been unwilling to interfere with juries’ findings in relation to the criminal offence of robbery (R v Dawson and James (1976)).

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 TA 1968 requires that the use or threat of force is used in order to steal.

This effectively means that if an individual uses a 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).

Therefore, if a person applies force to another with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, knocks that person unconscious and then decides to steal his wallet, they would not be guilty of robbery. This is a point taken on a strict view of the statute however, and the courts may take a different stance if such a case came before the courts.

What is the maximum prison sentence for robbery?

The maximum prison sentence for robbery is life imprisonment.