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What happens for a first offence of Armed Robbery?

Being accused of armed robbery for the first time carries substantial legal consequences in England and Wales. Armed robbery involves the use of force or the threat of force, often with the use of a weapon, in the commission of theft. This article delves into the critical elements of armed robbery, the standard legal procedures, possible sentencing outcomes, and options for securing legal assistance when confronted with such charges. If you find yourself in the difficult situation of being charged with armed robbery as a first-time offender, understanding the gravity of the offence and enlisting the support of a competent legal professional is absolutely vital.

What is the offence of armed robbery?

In England, the offence of armed robbery is a severe form of theft characterised by the use of force or threat of force, combined with the possession, use, or threat of use of a weapon. It falls under the legal framework established by the Theft Act 1968 and the Firearms Act 1968 when firearms are involved.

To secure a conviction for armed robbery, the prosecution must prove several key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Theft: There must be an act of stealing, which involves the intention to permanently deprive the owner of their property.
  • Use or Threat of Force: The act of stealing must be accompanied by the use or threat of force upon any person.
  • Presence of a Weapon: During the commission of the robbery, the offender must be armed with a weapon, which could range from a firearm to any bladed article or even an imitation weapon, provided it is used to intimidate.
  • Intent: The offender must have the intent to use force to steal or at the time of using force, with the objective of either stealing immediately or shortly after the use of force.

The combination of these elements makes armed robbery a particularly serious crime, reflecting the heightened level of danger and intimidation involved. It is for this reason that punishments for this offence can be so grave (see below).

What are some examples of armed robbery offences?

Here are some examples of armed robbery offences:

  • An individual brandishing a knife to threaten a pedestrian into handing over their jewellery and smartphone.
  • A group of assailants using firearms to rob a bank, demanding cash from the vault and tellers.
  • A person wielding a baseball bat to intimidate a convenience store owner while emptying the till.
  • Using a replica gun to force a taxi driver to surrender all cash earnings.
  • Masked individuals carrying crowbars to break into and steal from secure premises, threatening anyone who confronts them.
  • A perpetrator using a stun gun to disable a victim before taking their wallet and watch.
  • An assailant threatening a delivery driver with a knife, forcing them to hand over valuable goods.
  • A group armed with bats and knives raiding a jewellery store, smashing display cases and threatening staff and customers.
  • A lone individual with a firearm holding up a post office, demanding access to the safe.
  • A duo on a motorbike, one wielding a hammer, robbing pedestrians of their bags and phones at traffic lights.

What happens if you are accused of armed robbery?

If you are accused of armed robbery in England, a series of legal processes will unfold, reflecting the seriousness of the charge. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • Arrest and Custody: Typically, the process begins with your arrest by the police, who must have reasonable grounds to suspect your involvement in the offence. Following the arrest, you’ll likely be taken into police custody for questioning.
  • Interview: While in custody, you’ll be interviewed about the offence. You must exercise your right to legal representation during this stage. You can request a solicitor, and legal aid may be available to you.
  • Charge: If the police believe there is sufficient evidence, you will be formally charged with armed robbery. The charge will detail the specific nature of the alleged offence.
  • Court Appearance: Your first court appearance will be at a Magistrates’ Court, where the charges will be read to you. Due to the severity of armed robbery, the case will likely be referred to the Crown Court for trial.
  • Bail or Release under Investigation: Depending on the circumstances, you may be released on bail or released under investigation until the trial. However, given the gravity of armed robbery, these ‘privileges’ may be denied, or stringent conditions may be attached.
  • Preparation for Trial: Both the prosecution and defence will prepare their cases. This involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing legal arguments. Your defence team will work with you to build the strongest possible defence, taking into account the specifics of the accusation and the evidence against you.
  • Trial: The trial will take place in the Crown Court before a judge and jury. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the offence. You’ll have the opportunity to present your defence, including any witnesses and evidence supporting your case.
  • Verdict: The jury will deliberate and return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If found guilty, the judge will proceed to sentencing, considering various factors, including the nature of the offence, your role in it, and any previous criminal history.
  • Sentencing: Armed robbery carries significant penalties, potentially including lengthy imprisonment. The sentence will reflect the severity of the crime, the use of a weapon, and its impact on the victims.
  • Appeal: If convicted, you have the right to appeal against the verdict or sentence, provided there are grounds for appeal, such as legal errors during the trial or new evidence.

Throughout this process, having experienced legal representation is crucial to navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system and to ensure your rights are protected.

What is the sentence for armed robbery?

The sentencing for armed robbery in England is governed by various factors and adheres to the sentencing guidelines provided by the Sentencing Council. The maximum sentence can extend to life imprisonment, as stipulated by the Theft Act 1968, particularly when firearms or other deadly weapons are involved, as highlighted by the Firearms Act 1968. The severity of the sentence is influenced by considerations such as the degree of force used, the value of items stolen, the effect on the victim, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

In determining the sentence for armed robbery, the judge will weigh both aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors are aspects that intensify the seriousness of the offence, potentially leading to a stricter sentence. Examples include:

  • The use of weapons, particularly firearms, to threaten or cause harm during the robbery.
  • Situations where the victim is subjected to a violent or extended ordeal.
  • Infliction of significant physical injury or psychological trauma on the victim.
  • Robberies that are premeditated or involve a group of offenders, indicating a higher level of organisation and threat.

Mitigating factors, on the other hand, are considerations that might lessen the offender’s responsibility and lead to a more lenient sentence. Examples include:

  • A lack of previous criminal convictions or evidence of generally good character.
  • Demonstrable remorse and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement.
  • Limited involvement in the offence, particularly if the individual was coerced or under duress.
  • Instances where minimal force was used or the threat to the victim was low.

The exact sentence within the available range will be determined by the specific details of each case, allowing judges to exercise their discretion. The sentencing guidelines aim to ensure that sentences are fair and proportionate, taking into account the seriousness of the offence while providing enough flexibility to consider the unique circumstances of each incident.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing the offence of armed robbery?

Although imprisonment is a likely outcome due to the seriousness of the offence, it is not guaranteed, particularly for a first-time offender. The sentencing for armed robbery takes into account the specific circumstances of the crime, the extent of force or threat used, the impact on the victim, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

A first-time offender with no prior convictions, who shows remorse and works with the police and other agencies, may be considered for a more lenient sentence. However, given the nature of armed robbery, which involves the use of a weapon and the threat or application of force, the courts are inclined to treat such offences with a high degree of seriousness.

Note that armed robbery is viewed as a particularly grave offence, and the justice system exists to protect the public and deter criminal behaviour. For this reason, even first-time offenders can expect serious consideration of imprisonment as a sentencing option.

Where to get more help

If you are facing charges of armed robbery, you must obtain specialist legal advice and representation without delay. Skilled criminal defence solicitors can offer counsel, formulate a strong defence approach, and safeguard your rights during the legal proceedings. For a complimentary, confidential consultation, contact the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today.

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