Robbery is the act of unlawfully taking property from a person by force or the threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. It is a hybrid offence, as it contains an element of violence and an element of property offending.
Robbery offences are very serious and carry significant periods of imprisonment. In New South Wales, robbery offences are governed by the Crimes Act 1900.
What is robbery?
For a person to be found guilty of robbery, the following elements must be proven:
- There must have been an unlawful taking away of property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it;
- The property must have been taken without the owner’s consent. Consent obtained by force or threats is not valid consent;
- The property must be taken from the person of another;
- The property must be taken by actual violence or by placing the owner in fear of actual violence.
Robbery or larceny?
Robbery is often confused with larceny, although they are very different offences. Larceny, also known as theft or stealing, involves unlawfully depriving another person of their property on a permanent basis. The offence of larceny does not require any element of violence or the threat of violence to have been present.
Larceny offences can be dealt with summarily (in the Local Court) or on indictment (in the District or Supreme Court). However, robbery offences can only be dealt with on indictment. This means that a person charged with robbery must go through committal proceedings in the Local Court before finalising the matter in a higher court.
There is a range of robbery offences contained in the NSW Crimes Act, carrying different maximum penalties. These offences and the penalties they attract are outlined below.
Robbery or stealing from the person
Under Section 94 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person who robs or assaults a person with intent to rob them or steal from the person of another is guilty of an offence. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 14 years.
An offence under Section 94 is an aggravated offence if the person robs or steal from the person of another in circumstances that involve any of the following:
- The use of physical violence;
- The intentional or reckless infliction of bodily harm on a person;
- The deprivation of any person of their liberty.
An aggravated robbery offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 20 years.
Robbery with wounding
If a person commits a robbery, in which grievous bodily harm is inflicted on a person, they are liable to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 25 years.
Robbery when armed or in company
Under Section 97, a person who is armed with an offensive weapon or in company with another person, and:
- Robs or assaults a person with intent to rob;
- Stops a vehicle or person carrying mail with intent to rob or search it;
Is liable to imprisonment for 20 years.
An offence under Section 97 is aggravated if the person is armed with a dangerous weapon, such as a firearm or spear gun. An aggravated offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 20 years.
Robbery with arms and wounding
Under Section 98, a person who commits a robbery while armed with an offensive weapon or in company with another person and inflicts grievous bodily harm on a person is liable to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 25 years.
Demanding property with intent to steal
Under Section 99, a person who demands property from another person with menaces or force with the intention of stealing the property commits an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 10 years. If the offence is committed in company with another person, the maximum penalty that applied is imprisonment for 14 years.
Juvenile robbery offenders
If a person under the age of 18 is charged with a robbery offence, he or she will initially have to attend the Children’s Court. However, the matter will not be finalised in the Children’s Court. The matter will proceed through committal proceedings in the Children’s Court and if committed to a higher court, will be finalised there by way of a plea or a trial.
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