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"Robber" and "Robbers" redirect here. This can also refer to certain African tetras, e.g. Alestes or Brycinus. For the 1782 play by Friedrich Schiller, see The Robbers.
Ronin robbing a merchant's house in Japan around 1860 (1)

Robbery is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. 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.[1] Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft in its use of violence and intimidation.

The word "rob" came via French from Late Latin words (e.g. deraubare) of Germanic origin, from Common Germanic raub

Among the types of robbery are piracy, armed robbery involving use of a weapon, and aggravated robbery involving use of a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon. Highway robbery or "mugging" takes place outside and in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot. Carjacking is the act of stealing a car from a victim by force. Criminal slang for robbery includes "blagging" (armed robbery, usually of a bank), and "steaming", or organised robbery on underground train systems.


English law

Under section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968, robbery is an indictable only offence which occurs if the defendant

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]


This requires evidence to prove a theft as set out in s.1(1) Theft Act, 1968. In R v Robinson (1977),[3] 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.

In R v Hale (1979),[4] 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)[5] 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),[6] should apply; the court disagreed, preferring to follow R v Hale.

Actual or threatened force against a person

Threat or use of force must be immediate in the presence of the victim. Force used after the completion of theft may not elevate theft to robbery, although another criminal offence, such as assault, may be found. It was held in R v Dawson and James (1978)[7] that "force" is an ordinary English word and its meaning should be left to the jury. This approach was confirmed in R v Clouden (1987)[8] and Corcoran v Anderton (1980)[9], both handbag-snatching cases.


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 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.[10]

The force or threat may be directed against a third party, for example a customer in a jeweller's shop.(Smith v Desmond [1965] HL) Theft accompanied by a threat to damage property will not constitute robbery, but may disclose an offence of blackmail.

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

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

Jurisdiction and sentence

Marauders attacking a group of travellers, by Jacques Courtois

The definition applies only to England and Wales, by Section 36 of the Theft act 1968.[2]

The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Robbery and assault with intent to rob are also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. On the 25 July 2006 the Sentencing Guidelines Council published Definitive Guideline on Robbery.[11]

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 [12].

See also


  1. ^ "Carter, Floyd J. vs U.S.". June 12, 2000. Retrieved 2008-05-04.  
  2. ^ a b "Theft Act 1968, as revised". Retrieved 2009-01-31.  
  3. ^ Crim LR 173
  4. ^ Crim LR 596, Court of Appeal
  5. ^ Crim LR 656
  6. ^ [1993] AC 442, House of Lords
  7. ^ 68 Cr App r 170
  8. ^ TBC
  9. ^ 71 Cr App R 104
  10. ^ R v Khan LTL (9 April 2001) and Archbold 2006 21-101.
  11. ^ Sentencing Guidelines Council
  12. ^ Consultations re Sentencing Guidelines Council: Robbery

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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