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7.5.2 - Robbery

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Overview

  1. Robbery is an offence under Crimes Act 1958 s75.
  2. The offence has the following three elements:
    1. The accused stole something (i.e., committed "theft");
    2. Immediately before or at the time of the theft, the accused:
      1. Used force on any person; or
      2. Put any person in fear that s/he or another person would, then and there, be subject to the use of force; or
      3. Sought to put any person in fear that s/he or another person would, then and there, be subject to the use of force.
    3. The accused did so in order to commit the theft.

    The accused committed theft

  3. The first element that the prosecution must prove is that the accused stole something (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).
  4. A person "steals" (and thereby commits the offence of "theft") if s/he
  5. See Theft for further information concerning each of these requirements.

    The accused used force or fear of force

  6. The second element that the prosecution must prove is that, immediately before or at the time of the theft, the accused:
    1. Used force on any person; or
    2. Put any person in fear that s/he or another person would, then and there, be subject to the use of force; or
    3. Sought to put any person in fear that s/he or another person would, then and there, be subject to the use of force (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).

    Use of force

  7. There is no legal standard for the minimum physical contact that can constitute the "use of force" (Dawson & James (1976) 64 Crim App R 170; Hood v R [2000] WASCA 98).
  8. If there is an issue about whether the accused’s actions constituted a "use of force", it is for the jury to determine (Dawson & James (1976) 64 Crim App R 170; cf. Hood v R [2000] WASCA 98).
  9. The "force" does not need to have been applied directly to the victim’s body. It is sufficient if it was applied to items carried by the victim (R v Clouden [1987] Crim LR 56).

    Putting a person in fear of the use of force

  10. Where it is alleged that the accused put the victim in fear that s/he or another person would be subject to the use of force, the victim must have feared that the force would be used "then and there" (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).
  11. While any physical contact may be legally sufficient to meet this element where the "use of force" is relied upon, there is a minimum standard for threats capable of meeting this element. The accused’s threat must place the victim "in fear" of the use of force. This means the threat must be sufficient to cause personal intimidation (R v Butcher [1986] VR 43).

    Seeking to put a person in fear of the use of force

  12. It is not necessary for the victim to have actually feared that s/he or someone else would be subjected to force for this element to be met. It will be met if the accused "sought" to put the victim in such fear, even if that attempt was not successful (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).

    "Immediately before or at the time of theft"

  13. The accused must have used force, or put or sought to put the victim in fear of the use of force, "immediately before or at the time" of the theft (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)). [1]
  14. This element will therefore not be met if the force was applied, or the fear induced, after the property was appropriated (R v Foster (1995) 78 A Crim R 517 (NSWCCA)). [2]
  15. An act of appropriation may be a continuing act. If the accused used force, or put or sought to put the victim in fear of the use of force, at any point in time prior to the appropriation being complete, this element will be satisfied (R v Hale (1978) 68 Cr App R 415).
  16. If there is an issue about whether or not the appropriation was already complete by the time the accused used force, or put or sought to put the victim in fear of the use of force, it is for the jury to determine when the appropriation was complete (R v Hale (1978) 68 Cr App R 415).

    Victim may be "any person"

  17. It is not necessary for the victim to have been the subject of the use or threat of force. This element will be met if the accused used force against any person, or put or sought to put the victim in fear that another person would be subjected to force (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).
  18. A "person" must have been the subject of the use or threat of force (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)). It is therefore not sufficient to prove that force was used or threatened against property. [3] However, if the accused, by the (threatened) use of force against property, puts (or seeks to put) the victim in fear that s/he or another person will themselves be subject to the use of force, this element will be satisfied.

    Conduct was committed "in order" to steal

  19. The third element requires the prosecution to prove that the force was used or threatened "in order to" carry out the theft (Crimes Act 1958 s75(1)).
  20. In determining whether this element is met, the jury must consider the accused’s purpose when s/he committed the relevant acts. S/he must have committed those acts so that s/he could steal.
  21. This test differs from the former common law test in two ways:
  22. As the purpose of the use or threat of force must have been to commit theft, this element will not be met if the accused used, or threatened to use, force upon the victim for a different reason, but upon seeing an unanticipated opportunity created by his or her actions, stole the victim’s property.

    Defences

  23. Any defence to theft will also be defence to robbery. For example, as an honest belief in a claim of right to property is a defence to theft (see Theft), it is not robbery if the accused honestly believed in his or her entitlement to take the property (R v Skivvington [1968] 1 QB 166).
  24. For a claim of right to succeed, the accused does not need to have believed that s/he had a legal right to appropriate the property by the use of force. S/he merely needs to have believed that s/he had a legal right to appropriate the property. The use of force was simply his or her means of achieving that goal (R v Skivvington [1968] 1 QB 166; R v Robinson [1977] Crim LR 173. See also R v Salvo [1980] VR 401; R v Bedford (2007) 98 SASR 514). [4]

 

Notes

[1] This requirement replaced the former common law requirement that the property must have been taken from, or in the presence of, the victim of the violence (see, e.g., R v McNamara [1965] VR 372). There is no reason to believe that this "presence" requirement is preserved in the statutory offence.

[2] The accused may, however, be guilty of another offence, such as assault.

[3] Where force is used or threatened against property, the accused may be guilty of another offence, such as blackmail (Crimes Act 1958 s87).

[4] In such circumstances, the accused may be convicted of an offence relating to the violence used (R v Bedford (2007) 98 SASR 514; [2007] SASC 276; R v Salvo [1980] VR 401).

 

Last updated: 24 January 2017

In This Section

7.5.2.1 - Charge: Robbery (Short)

7.5.2.2 - Charge: Robbery (Extended)

7.5.2.3 - Checklist: Robbery

See Also

7.5 - Dishonesty and Property Offences

7.5.1 - Theft

7.5.3 - Armed Robbery

7.5.4 - Burglary

7.5.5 - Aggravated Burglary

7.5.6 – Home Invasion

7.5.7 – Aggravated Home Invasion

7.5.8 – Carjacking

7.5.9 – Aggravated Carjacking

7.5.10 - Handling Stolen Goods

7.5.11 - Recent Possession

7.5.12 - Obtaining Property By Deception

7.5.13 - Obtaining a Financial Advantage By Deception

7.5.14 - Making or Using a False Document

7.5.15 - Blackmail

7.5.16 - Criminal Damage

7.5.17 - Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life

7.5.18 - Criminal Damage With a View to Gain

7.5.19 - Arson

7.5.20 - Arson Causing Death

7.5.21 - Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire