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Robbery Case Summaries

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ROBBERY

INTRODUCTION

Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968 provides:

“(1) A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before

or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person

or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to

force.

(2) A person guilty of robbery, or of an assault with intent to rob, shall on

conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life.”

Robbery is triable only on indictment.

1. STEALS

Robbery is theft aggravated by the threat or use of force. The elements of

theft must be established if a conviction for robbery is to be obtained. Thus

for example, a person who forces another to hand over money, believing that he

has a legal right to it, he is not guilty of theft:

·In R v Robinson [1977] Crim LR 173, it was alleged that D, who was owed

£ 7 by V’s wife, approached V, brandishing a knife. A fight followed, during

which V dropped a £ 5 note. D picked it up and demanded the remaining £ 2 owed

to him. Allowing D’s appeal against conviction for robbery, the Court of Appeal

held that the prosecution had to prove that D was guilty of theft, and that he

would not be (under s2(1)(a) of the 1968 Act) if he honestly believed that he

had a right in law to deprive V of the money, even though he knew he was not

entitled to use the knife to get it.

·In R v Forrester [1992] Crim LR 793, V had retained D’s £ 200 deposit when

D’s tenancy terminated. D believed he had been asked to leave without

justification and that the deposit was being unfairly withheld. D, accompanied

by a friend, went to V’s house, burst in when the door was opened and seized

some items whilst his friend restrained V. His intention was to use the items to

bargain for the return of his money. If this failed, he would sell the items and

the use money for a deposit on another flat, returning the excess to V. D’s

conviction for robbery was upheld by the Court of Appeal. It was held that he

knew he had no right to the items themselves and so could not claim that he was

not dishonest under s2(1)(a).

A temporary appropriation will amount to theft:

·In Corcoran v Anderton (1980) 71 Cr App R 104, it was held that a robbery

was committed where a woman’s handbag was wrestled from her grasp, even though

it then fell to the ground and was not made off with.

Where the accused has used force on another (or put another person in fear of

force) in order to steal but has not achieved the appropriation of any property,

and is therefore not guilty of robbery, he can be convicted of assault with

intent to rob, which is also triable only on indictment.

2. USE OF FORCE

The question of whether or not force has been used is a question of fact to

be determined by a jury, the Court of Appeal so held in R v Dawson [1976] Crim

LR 692. In practice it appears that very little force is actually required:

·In R v Dawson [1976] the defendant had nudged the victim causing him to

lose his balance so that his wallet could be more easily taken. His appeal

against a conviction for robbery was refused.

·In R v Clouden [1987] Crim LR 56, the defendant had pulled on the victim’s

handbag to wrentch it from her hands. The Court of Appeal held that whilst a

snatching of property without resistance from the owner, such as by a

pickpocket, should not amount to robbery, the question of whether force has been

used ‘on any person’ should be left to the jury. The defendant was held to have

been rightly convicted of robbery.

3. IN ORDER TO STEAL

The force, or threat of force, must be used in order to steal according to

s8(1).

Therefore, if D attacks V in order to settle an argument, and having hit V to

the ground finds his wallet to have fallen out, D will not be guilty of robbery

should he run off with the wallet, because the force was not used by him with

the intention of stealing. Similarly, the use of gratuitous violence after a

theft would not constitute robbery because the force is not used in order to

enable the theft to be carried out.

4. IMMEDIATELY BEFORE OR AT THE TIME OF STEALING

Section 8(1) clearly provides that the force must be used immediately before,

or at the time of, stealing, raising the question of for how long theft

continues (an issue to be decided by the jury).

·In R v Hale (1978) Cr App R 415, D and E entered V’s house and while D was

upstairs stealing a jewellry box, E was downstairs tying up V. The Court of

Appeal refused to quash their convictions for robbery though the appropriation

of the jewellery box might have been completed before the force was used. The

court said the appropriation should be regarded as a continuing act and it was

open to the jury on these facts to conclude that it continued while V was tied

up.

The matter needs to be looked at in a common sense way; while the force must

be used at the time of the theft and in order to steal, the theft needs to be

looked at in its entirety.

5. MENS REA

While the mens rea of robbery is not spelt out in s8, it is clear that there

must be the mens rea of theft, and the force or threatened force must be in

order to steal.

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