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Criminal Defence Articles

What happens for a first offence of Robbery?

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Robbery is a serious offence. If you have been charged with robbery, you are probably feeling anxious and afraid. But you are not alone. Tens of thousands of robberies take place in the UK every year, and the numbers are not slowing down. The rise in robberies has been attributed to the decrease in policing resources, including a reduction in the numbers of  police officers. Although it is a relatively common offence, if you are caught and charged with robbery, you can expect that the court will be inclined to punish you harshly. Therefore, having the best possible legal team on your side is of the utmost importance. This article explains the offence of robbery, the procedure that the police follow in investigating it, and the sentence that you could face if you get caught for the first time.

What is the offence of robbery?

The offence of robbery is set out at Section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968. This establishes that a person commits robbery where:

  • he or she steals; and
  • immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he or she uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put a person in fear of force being used against them.

Stealing is defined at Section 1(1) of the Theft Act as the:

  • dishonest
  • appropriation
  • of property belonging to another
  • with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. In order for the offence of robbery to be made out, there must be evidence that the robber intended to take the property permanently, not just borrow it.

The Theft Act makes it clear that situations where the person taking the property believes that the owner would have consented, or believes that he or she has a legal right to the property, do not count as theft. The fact that the taker is subsequently willing to pay for the property does not prevent his or her actions from being counted as stealing.

For it to be robbery and not just theft, force must be used just before or at the time of the theft. However, the courts have taken a wide view on this, finding that appropriation can be a continuing act and that it is a matter for the jury to determine whether the theft is still in the course of being conducted at the time that violence was used or threatened.

What is the difference between robbery and burglary?

Burglary takes place where a person enters a building as a trespasser with the intent to steal, or to commit grievous bodily harm or criminal damage. Burglary can take place even where no violence is threatened or used.

By contrast, robbery does not require the element of unlawful entry into a place in order for the offence to be made out. Robbery could take place in a public place such as the street, on public transport, or at a school or sports centre. However, robbery can also take place in a private place, such as a person’s home. Because the court’s sentencing powers are greater in relation to robbery, CPS guidance states that where violence or threats of violence are used in the course of a theft from inside a building, it should be charged as robbery.

What happens if you are suspected of robbery in the UK?

If you are suspected of robbery, you will be arrested and interviewed by the police. Because robbery is a serious offence, if you are arrested on a charge of robbery, particularly if a weapon has been used, it is likely that you will be remanded in custody pending the police’s investigation.

However, this may not be the case for less serious cases of mugging. If you are not remanded in custody, you will either be released under investigation, or released on bail until the police/CPS are ready to make a charging decision. If you are released on bail, you may be subject to bail conditions such as being prohibited from contacting the person who alleges that you robbed them. If you are released under investigation, no such bail conditions will apply.

Once you are charged and appear before the court, you will either be remanded in custody or released on court bail. If you feel that your bail conditions are unfair, or you do not believe that you should be kept in prison pending your trial, you can approach your criminal defence solicitor and ask them to apply for a bail hearing. If you are not happy with the firm of solicitors that represented you at the police station, you have the right to instruct a different firm of solicitors. It is better to do this at the earliest stage possible so that they can help you prepare all the evidence that you need in order to support your defence.

What is the sentence for robbery in the UK?

Robbery is an indictable only offence, which means that it must be heard in the Crown Court. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or an unlimited fine. However, most cases of robbery will not receive such a severe sentence. The Sentencing Council has produced a guide that judges rely upon when considering the appropriate sentence for robbery. The guide considers three different types of robbery separately. These are street robbery, commercial robbery, and robbery of a dwelling.

Street robbery and less sophisticated robbery

For street level muggings, the court will look at your role in the offence, whether a weapon was used, and the level of violence that was threatened or used. If the offence was motivated by hostility towards the victim’s religion, race, disability, sexual orientation, or transgender identity this will increase the offender’s culpability. The court will then look at the harm caused to the victim, both physical and psychological in order to arrive at a starting point for the sentence. The sentence range is between 12 years’ custody and a high level community order.

Professionally planned commercial robbery

By contrast, professionally planned commercial robberies will generally always receive a custodial sentence. The sentence range is between 18 months’ to 20 years’ custody. The factors used to assess culpability and harm are similar to those for street robbery, but for commercial robberies, the court will also consider whether the robber abused their position in order to gain access to the property.

Robbery of a dwelling (i.e. someone’s home)

Robbery of a dwelling has a sentence range of between 1 year and 16 years’ custody. When considering the harm caused by the offence, the court will consider damage to sentimental goods as well as those with financial value. Spontaneous or opportunistic home robberies will receive a lesser sentence compared with those which have been carefully planned or premeditated.

Aggravating and mitigating factors

Once the court has come up with a starting point for your sentence, aggravating and mitigating factors specific to your case will then be taken into account. The court is required to look at previous convictions for any similar offences. If you have committed other similar offences in the past, this will be an aggravating factor. The court will also consider if you have shown remorse, for example if you have apologised or expressed regret for the harm that you have caused to the victim. If so, this could lessen your sentence.

Reduction for guilty plea

The court will also consider whether your sentence should be reduced to take into account a guilty plea. In general, the earlier you plead guilty, the more your sentence could be reduced. Note, though, that you do not have the right to a sentence reduction for a guilty plea; it is at the discretion of the court.

Do first time robbers go to jail in the UK?

Because robbery is a very serious offence, you could go to jail even if it is your first time in the dock. Whether you are likely to face a custodial sentence varies depending on your culpability, the harm caused to the victim, as well as any aggravating or mitigating factors in your case.

These include:

  • your role in the offence
  • the impact on the victim
  • whether you used a weapon
  • if you are of previous good character
  • if you showed remorse
  • your age and maturity at the time of committing the offence

You will have the opportunity to make the court aware of any important personal circumstances when you file your plea in mitigation. Instructing a good criminal defence solicitor could mean the difference between a high-level community order and a jail sentence.

Where to get further help?

If you have been charged with robbery, whether it is regarding the theft of a mobile phone at school or a sophisticated commercial operation, you should take the upcoming court proceedings seriously. Instructing the right criminal defence solicitor could make all the difference. At Stuart Miller Solicitors, our team is highly professional and has years of experience in defending individuals on robbery charges. Contact us for a no obligation consultation today.

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