Robbery
Overview
Robbery is the crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

 in its use of violence and intimidation.

The word "rob" came via French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 words (e.g.
Encyclopedia
Robbery is the crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

 in its use of violence and intimidation.

The word "rob" came via French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 words (e.g. deraubare) of Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 origin, from Common Germanic raub — "theft"

Among the types of robbery are armed robbery involving use of a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

  and aggravated robbery involving use of a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon. Highway robbery or "mugging
Mugging
Mugging or mugger may refer to:* A type of street robbery**Steaming , a variation of this type of robbery*Model Mugging, a self-defense training technique.* The Mugger Crocodile, a species native to India, Pakistan, Iran, and Nepal....

" takes place outside and in a public
Public
In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individuals, and the public is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociological concept of the Öffentlichkeit or public sphere. The concept of a public has also been defined in political science,...

 place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot. Carjacking
Carjacking
Carjacking is a form of hijacking, where the crime is of stealing a motor vehicle and so also armed assault when the vehicle is occupied. Historically, such as in the rash of semi-trailer truck hijackings during the 1960s, the general term hijacking was used for that type of vehicle abduction,...

 is the act of stealing a car from a victim by force. Extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

 is the threat to do something illegal, or the offer to not do something illegal, in the event that goods are not given, primarily using words instead of actions.

Criminal slang for robbery includes "blagging" (armed robbery, usually of a bank) or "stick-up" (derived from the verbal command to robbery targets to raise their hands in the air), and "steaming
Steaming (crime)
Steaming is a slang term used by the British commonly for robbery performed on train or bus passengers by a gang or large group and often involving some level of violence. It is often used interchangeably with mugging, referring to a specific subcategory of that crime...

" (organized robbery on underground train systems).

Republic of Ireland

Robbery is a statutory offence in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. It is created by section 14(1) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001
Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001
The Criminal Justice Act, 2001 updates and consolidates the law relating to dishonesty and fraud in the Republic of Ireland.The main sections of the statute include:*Theft and Related Offences...

.

England and Wales

Robbery is a statutory offence in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

. It is created by section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968
Theft Act 1968
The Theft Act 1968 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales.On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.-History:...

 which reads:
Aggravated theft

Robbery is the only offence of aggravated theft.

Aggravated robbery

There are no offences of aggravated robbery.

Steals

This requires evidence to prove a theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

 as set out in section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968. In R v Robinson the defendant threatened the victim with a knife in order to recover money which he was actually owed. His conviction for robbery was quashed on the basis that Robinson had an honest, although unreasonable, belief (under Section 2(1)(a) of the Act) in his legal right to the money. See also R v Skivington [1968] 1 QB 166, [1967] 2 WLR 655, 131 JP 265, 111 SJ 72, [1967] 1 All ER 483, 51 Cr App R 167, CA.

In R v Hale (1978) the application of force and the stealing took place in different locations, and it was not possible to establish the timing; it was held that the appropriation necessary to prove theft was a continuing act, and the jury could correctly convict of robbery; this approach was followed in R v Lockley (1995) when the force was applied to a shopkeeper after property had been taken. It was argued that the theft should be regarded as complete by this time, and R v Gomez (1993), should apply; the court disagreed, preferring to follow R v Hale.

Actual or threatened force against a person

The threat or use of force must take place immediately before or at the time of the theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

. Force used after the theft is complete will not turn the theft into a robbery.

The words "or immediately after" that appeared in section 23(1)(b) of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

 were deliberately omitted from section 8(1).

The book "Archbold" said that the facts in R v Harman, which did not amount to robbery in 1620, would not amount to robbery now.

It was held in R v Dawson and James (1978) that "force" is an ordinary English word and its meaning should be left to the jury. This approach was confirmed in R v Clouden (1985) and Corcoran v Anderton (1980), both handbag-snatching cases. Stealing may involve a young child who is not aware that taking other persons' property is not in order.

Threat

The victim must be placed in apprehension or fear that force would be used immediately before or at the time of the taking of the property. A threat is not immediate if the wrongdoer threatens to use force of violence some future time.

Robbery occurs if an aggressor forcibly snatched a mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 or if he used a knife to make an implied threat of violence to the holder and then took the phone. The person being threatened does not need to be the owner of the property. It is not necessary that the victim was actually frightened, but the defendant must have put or sought to put the victim or some other person in fear of immediate force.

The force or threat may be directed against a third party, for example a customer in a jeweller's shop. Theft accompanied by a threat to damage property will not constitute robbery, but it may disclose an offence of blackmail
Blackmail
In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

.

Dishonestly dealing with property stolen during a robbery will constitute an offence of handling.

Sentence

Robbery is punishable with imprisonment for life or for any shorter term. It is also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. On the 25 July 2006 the Sentencing Guidelines Council
Sentencing Guidelines Council
The Sentencing Guidelines Council was a non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom, created by s.167 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It gave authoritative guidance on sentencing to the courts of England and Wales...

 published Definitive Guideline on Robbery.

Following R v Mitchell (2005) All ER (D) 74, the sentencing guidelines provided in Attorney General's References (Nos 4 and 7 of 2002) (2002) EWCA Crim 127 no longer apply to street robbery involving the use of guns for which more severe deterrent sentences will almost invariably be required. In November 2005, the Sentencing Guidelines Council issued new draft guidelines concerning robbery.
Common law

Robbery was an offence under the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 of England. Matthew Hale provided the following definition:
See the statutes 23 Hen 8 c 1 and 5 & 6 Edw 6 c 9 as to benefit of clergy
Benefit of clergy
In English law, the benefit of clergy was originally a provision by which clergymen could claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead in an ecclesiastical court under canon law...

. And also 25 Hen 8 c 3 and 1 Edw 6 c 12. And also 29 Eliz c 15 and 3 & 4 W & M c 9.

The common law offence of robbery was abolished for all purposes not relating to offences committed before 1 January 1969 by section 32(1)(a) of the Theft Act 1968
Theft Act 1968
The Theft Act 1968 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales.On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.-History:...

.
Statute

See sections 40 to 43 of the Larceny Act 1861
Larceny Act 1861
The Larceny Act 1861 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland . It consolidated provisions related to larceny and similar offences from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act...

.

Section 23 of the Larceny Act 1916
Larceny Act 1916
The Larceny Act 1916 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences ....

 read:
This section provided maximum penalties for a number of offences of robbery and aggravated robbery.

The following cases relate to the use of force:
  • R v Lapier (1784) 1 Leach 320
  • R v Moore (1784) 1 Leach 335
  • R v Davies (1803) 2 East PC 709
  • R v Mason (1820) R & R 419
  • R v Gnosil (1824) 1 C & P 304
  • R v Walls and Hughes (1845) 2 C & K 214

Assault with intent to rob

If a robbery is foiled before it can be completed, an alternative offence under section 8(2) of the 1968 Act is assault; any act which intention
Intention
Intention is an agent's specific purpose in performing an action or series of actions, the end or goal that is aimed at. Outcomes that are unanticipated or unforeseen are known as unintended consequences....

ally or recklessly causes another to fear the immediate and unlawful use of force, with an intent to rob, will suffice.

The following cases are relevant:
  • R v Trusty and Howard (1783) 1 East PC 418
  • R v Sharwin (1785) 1 East PC 421


Mode of trial and sentence

Assault with intent to rob is an indictable-only offence. It is punishable with imprisonment for life or for any shorter term.

Assault with intent to rob is also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Northern Ireland

Robbery is a statutory offence in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. It is created by section 8 of the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
The Theft Act 1969 is an Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. It makes similar provision to the Theft Act 1968 for Northern Ireland.-Section 11 - Removal of articles from places open to the public:...

.

United States

In the United States robbery is generally treated as an aggravated form of common law larceny. The elements of robbery are:
1. a trespassory
2. taking and
3. carrying away
4. of the personal property
5. of another
6. with the intent to steal
7. from the person or presence of the victim
8. by force or threat of force.


The first six elements are the same as common law larceny. It is the last two elements that aggravate the crime to common law robbery.

from the person or presence of the victim - robbery requires that the property be taken directly from the person of the victim or from his presence. Note that this is different from larceny which simply requires that property be taken from the victim’s possession, actual or constructive. Property is “on the victim's person” if the victim is actually holding the property, or the property is contained within clothing the vicitim is wearing or is attached to victim's body such as a watch or earrings. Property is in a person’s presence when it is within the area of his immediate control. The property has to be close enough to the victim's person that the victim could have prevented its taking if she had not been placed in fear or intimidation.

by force or threat of force - the use of force or threat of force is the defining element of robbery. For there to be robbery there must be “force or fear” in perpetrating the theft. Questions concerning the degree of force necessary for robbery have been the subject of much litigation. Merely snatching the property from the victim's person is not sufficient force unless the victim resists or one of the items is attached or carried in such a way that a significant amount of force must be used to free the item from the victim's person.

For robbery the victim must be placed in “fear” of immediate harm by threat or intimidation. The threat need not be directed at the victim personally. Threats to third parties are sufficient. The threat must be one of present rather than future personal harm. Fear does not mean “fright”. It means apprehension - an awareness of the danger of immediate bodily harm.

California

The maximum sentence for robbery in California is 25 years to life. This even applies to first time offenders with out injury or weapons involved during the robbery.

In popular culture

Robberies have been depicted, sometimes graphically, in several films. One of them is The Killing, by Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

. A rather unconventional view of a robbery is in Take the Money and Run
Take the Money and Run
Take the Money and Run is a 1969 comedy film written by Woody Allen and Mickey Rose, and directed by and starring Woody Allen. It is an early mockumentary, chronicling the life of Virgil Starkwell, a bungling petty thief...

, by Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

. The aftermath of a robbery is shown, with abundance of lurid details, in Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs is an American crime film marking debut of director and writer Quentin Tarantino. It depicts the events before and after a botched diamond heist, but not the heist itself. Reservoir Dogs stars an ensemble cast: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and...

by Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Jerome Tarantino is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing nonlinear storylines and the aestheticization of violence...

. Several robbers have become pop icons; for instance, John Dillinger
John Dillinger
John Herbert Dillinger, Jr. was an American bank robber in Depression-era United States. He was charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana police officer during a shoot-out. This was his only alleged homicide. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations...

 or Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were well-known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Their exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934...

. Among those who have written their memoirs, the Italian Luciano Lutring; he called his book of recollections: Il solista del mitra, or The machine-gun soloist. Indeed, he worked alone (which is rather rare for a robber) and carried his machine gun in a violin case.

See also

Further reading

  • Allen, Michael. (2005). Textbook on Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-927918-7.
  • Criminal Law Revision Committee. 8th Report. Theft and Related Offences. Cmnd. 2977
  • Griew, Edward. Theft Acts 1968 & 1978. London: Sweet & Maxwell. ISBN 0-421-19960-1
  • Ormerod, David. (2005). Smith and Hogan Criminal Law, London: LexisNexis. ISBN 0-406-97730-5
  • Smith, J. C. (1997). Law of Theft. London: LexisNexis. ISBN 0-406-89545-7
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