Topic 15 Topic 15 Robbery Robbery Topic 15 Robbery Introduction Robbery is defined in the Theft Act 1968. According to s.8: ‘A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being subjected to force.’ Topic 15 Robbery Actus reus (1) Robbery is theft aggravated by the threat or use of force, so its actus reus overlaps with that for theft (appropriation of property belong to another) but has the additional requirement of force or threat of force on any person immediately before or at the time of stealing. Topic 15 Robbery Actus reus (2) In robbery, the appropriation does not have to be complete, as long as the defendant assumes one of the rights of the owner. Corcoran v Anderton (1980) One of the defendants hit the victim across the back, while the other pulled at her handbag. The victim screamed as the handbag fell to the ground and the defendants ran off empty-handed. The defendants were found guilty of robbery. The appropriation occurred when the defendant grabbed the bag. It did not matter that the bag was then dropped, as he had assumed at least one of the rights of the owner when he grabbed it. The theft was complete and therefore the charge was one of robbery rather than attempted robbery. Topic 15 Robbery Actus reus (3) The force does not need to be applied directly to the victim but can be applied to the property. R v Clouden (1987) The defendant wrenched a shopping bag from the victim’s hand. The Court of Appeal held that the force applied to the property was sufficient to amount to robbery. R v Dawson and James (1976) One of the defendants nudged the victim in the back so that he lost his balance. The other defendant took the victim’s wallet. The amount of force used was sufficient to be classed as a robbery. The word ‘force’ has been interpreted in the ordinary sense to the word. It does not require any violence. Topic 15 Robbery Actus reus (4) Continuing act One defendant can apply the force while the other defendant commits the theft. The theft can be seen as a continuing act. R v Hale (1978) The defendants forced their way into the victim’s house. One of the defendants went upstairs and stole a jewellery box while the other used force to tie up the victim. The Court of Appeal upheld their conviction for robbery, despite the fact that it was impossible to say whether the theft occurred at the same time as the force. The theft was a continuing act and therefore it was still happening when the victim was being tied up. Topic 15 Robbery Mens rea The mens rea of robbery is the mens rea of theft (dishonesty and intention to permanently deprive) plus the intentional or reckless application of force. R v Robinson (1977) The victim owed the defendant money. The defendant used a knife to threaten the victim. The victim dropped a £5 note that the defendant took as part payment of the £7 he was owed. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for robbery, as the jury at his trial should have been allowed to consider whether he was not acting dishonestly owing to the fact that he honestly believed that he had a right in law to take the money. Topic 15 Robbery Evaluation (1) The current law of robbery affords three main criticisms relating to the: • degree of force required • lack of any distinction between different types of robbery • large increase in the number of robberies being committed Only 3% of robberies result in a conviction and the majority of robberies are committed using a threat of force rather than actual force. Topic 15 Robbery Evaluation (2) Degree of force required The degree of force required to turn a theft into a robbery is slight, yet the difference in punishment ranges from a maximum of 7 years’ imprisonment for theft to life imprisonment for robbery. Topic 15 Robbery Evaluation (3) No distinction between different types of robbery Robbery is an indictable offence that must be tried at the Crown Court. Andrew Ashworth (2002) suggests that there should be two types of robbery: a lesser charge where the force is slight and a more serious charge where the force is greater. The less serious robberies could be tried at the Magistrates’ Court and the serious robberies would continue to be tried at the Crown Court. This would save the courts valuable time and money. Topic 15 Robbery Evaluation (4) Increase in robberies There has been a massive increase in the number of robberies that are reported to the police. This is especially true of incidents involving street muggings for mobile phones. In 2002, Lord Woolf encouraged the use of prison sentences for such offences. However, because of the low conviction rates and the fact that most defendants aged under 18 receive a community-based sentence for robbery, it is unlikely that there is much of a deterrent associated with such crimes.