R v Robinson [1977] Crim LR 173

Robbery under Section 8(1) Theft Act 1968, need to prove theft, mens rea for theft.


The defendant was owed £7 by a woman. He approached the woman’s husband brandishing a knife, and a fight ensued during which the woman’s husband dropped a £5 note. The defendant picked up the £5 note and demanded the remaining £2 owed to him. The defendant was convicted of robbery contrary to section 8(1) Theft Act 1968. The defendant appealed against his conviction.


The crime of robbery is an aggravated type of theft and it is, therefore, necessary for the prosecution to prove theft under section 1(1) Theft Act 1968. The mens rea for theft is dishonesty and an intention to deprive the other of the property. A defendant will not have appropriated the property dishonestly if he appropriates it in the belief that he has the legal right to appropriate the property for himself under section 2(1)(a) Theft Act 1968. A defendant will not have committed the offence of theft, and, therefore, cannot have committed the offence of robbery even though he used force to acquire the property and knew he was not permitted to use such force to acquire the property, if he believed that he had a right to appropriate the property.


The Court of Appeal quashed the defendant’s conviction for robbery. As he honestly believed he was entitled to the money in law, he did not have the requisite mens rea for theft, and because proof of theft is a necessary pre-requisite for proof of a robbery, the defendant could not have committed a robbery.