Robbery is what is known as a composite offence. This means that it is both a property offence and a violent offence.
In Victoria robbery offences are governed by the Crimes Act 1958.
Section 75 of the Crimes Act makes it an offence to steal, where immediately before or at the time of stealing, force is used on a person or a person is put in fear of being subjected to force.
The offence of robbery is punishable by a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.
Section 75A of the Crimes Act makes it an offence to commit a robbery with a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive weapon, explosive or imitation explosive. This offence is punishable by a maximum of 25 years imprisonment.
Elements of the offence
To prove that a person is guilty of a robbery or an armed robbery, the prosecution will have to prove the following:
That the accused stole something.
To prove that a theft occurred, it must be proven that the accused dishonestly appropriated property belonging to someone else with the intention of permanently depriving them of it.
The accused used force or the fear of force.
The law does not set a minimum for the level of force required to constitute ‘force’. It is also not required that the force be applied to the body of the victim; force applied to something the victim is carrying will suffice. To establish that the accused put someone in fear of the use of force will require a threat of some kind to have been made. It will also require the victim to fear the threat will be carried out on the spot (not at some point in the future).
The accused did so immediately before or at the time of the theft.
If the force or fear of force was applied only after the theft, the offence of robbery will not be made out.
The accused did so in order to commit a theft.
The threat or use of force must have occurred in order to achieve the theft.
The defences that are available to a charge of robbery or armed robbery include duress and immature age. Charges may also be contested on a factual basis like mistaken identity.
It is also a defence if the accused had an honest belief that they were the legal owner of the property. In such a case, the element of theft could not be made out.
Robbery is an indictable offence and so can be heard in the higher courts. However, it is often heard in the Magistrates Court by consent between he parties (like other indictable offences like assault and theft). In the Magistrates Court, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence is five years.
If a robbery matter is to be dealt with by a higher court, it will need to first proceed through a committal hearing, which will be held in the Magistrates Court if the accused is an adult and in the Children’s Court if the accused is a juvenile.
A committal hearing involves testing the prosecution case to establish whether there is enough evidence that the accused could be found guilty. If the evidence is found to be insufficient to support a finding of guilt, the charge will be dismissed.
According the statistics release by the Sentencing Advisory Council, between 2011 and 2014, the majority of people sentenced for robbery in the Magistrates Court received actual imprisonment. However, a large majority (about 32%) received a community-based order and a small number received other penalties, such as a fine or suspended sentence. Most people sentenced to imprisonment received between 12 and 18 months.
In the higher courts, the majority of people sentenced of robbery received a sentence of imprisonment of between one and two years, with only a small minority getting non-custodial sentences.
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