Robbery is a composite offence, meaning that it is both a property offence and a violent offence. A person commits robbery if they use or threaten violence immediately before or after stealing property. In Queensland, this offence is contained in Section 409 of the Criminal Code 1899. The Code also contains several other, less serious but related offences.
What must be proved?
For a person to be found guilty of robbery, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they used or threatened violence in order to obtain the property or to overcome the resistance of the victim. Even a small amount of violence will suffice to uphold this charge.
Under Section 411, a person who commits robbery is liable to be imprisoned for up to 14 years. If a robbery is committed in circumstances of aggravation, greater penalties apply. There are three circumstances of aggravation for a robbery charge, namely:
- The offender was armed or pretended to be armed with an offensive weapon;
- The offender was in company with other people;
- The offender wounded or used personal violence on a person.
What is an offensive weapon?
An offensive weapon may be an item easily recognised as a weapon, like a knife, gun or sword. It may also be an item normally used for something else if the item is being used as a weapon. This may be something like a cricket bat, stick or saucepan.
Which jurisdiction applies?
Robbery offences can only be finalised on indictment in the District Court. If an adult is charged with robbery, they must go through a committal proceeding in the Magistrates Court, before the matter proceeds to the District Court. If a juvenile is charged with robbery, they must go through a committal proceeding in the Children’s Court.
If a person assaults a person with intent to steal and uses violence or the threat of violence to try to obtain the thing or overcome resistance by the victim, they are guilty of attempted robbery and are liable to be imprisoned for up to seven years. If the robbery is attempted in circumstances of aggravation, the maximum penalty that applies is imprisonment for 14 years. If the offender wounds any person using an offensive weapon during the attempted robbery, they are liable to imprisonment for life.
Assault with intent to steal
The lesser offence of assault with intent to steal is contained in Section 413 of the Criminal Code. A person who assaults a person with intent to steal is liable to be imprisoned for up to three years.
Demanding property with menaces
Another lesser and related charge is demanding property with menaces with intent to steal, which is contained in Section 414 of the Criminal Code. If a person demands property from a person with threats of injury or any detriment if the demand is not complied with, they are liable to be imprisoned for up to three years.
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