The offence of robbery is governed by section 211 of the Criminal Code 1983. A robbery is what is known as a composite offence, that is, an offence involving both violence and dishonesty. A robbery occurs when violence or the threat of violence is used in order to steal. This article outlines the offences of robbery in the Northern Territory.
Definition of robbery
In the NT, a person is guilty of robbery if they steal a thing and, immediately before, at the time or after the theft, uses or threatens to use violence against any person in order to obtain the thing, to prevent or overcome resistance to its theft or to hinder their pursuit.
The offence of robbery is aggravated if, at the time of stealing, the person is in company with one or more other persons, is armed, or causes harm to a person.
An offence of robbery in the NT carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
If the accused is in company with one or more other persons, if they are armed with a weapon, or if they cause harm to a person, the maximum penalty that applies is imprisonment for life.
What acts amount to robbery?
The following situations could lead to a finding of guilt for robbery:
- A person threatens a shopkeeper and steals cash from the shop;
- A teenager punches another teenager in order to steal his wallet;
- A man raises a fist at a woman and steals her handbag after threatening to hit her if she doesn’t hand it over.
The following situations could lead to a finding of guilt for aggravated robbery:
- Two teenagers threaten to punch another teenager if he doesn’t hand over his wallet;
- A man threatens a shopkeeper with a gun to get him to hand over cash from the cash register;
- A man stabs another man and steals his bike.
Robbery can be finalised by a magistrate, either in the Magistrates Court (where the accused is an adult) or in the Children’s Court (where the accused is under 18) if both parties agree to this.
Matters involving robbery in company, where harm is inflicted, or where a weapon is used, may only be finalised by the Supreme Court.
When a robbery matter is to be finalised by the Supreme Court, it will first have to go through a number of preliminary mentions in front of a magistrate.
The brief of evidence will need to be provided to the accused or their legal representative, and the matter will have to go through a committal proceeding.
If there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt by a jury, the matter will be committed to the Supreme Court for finalisation by way of a sentencing hearing or a trial.
Defences to robbery
A person charged with a robbery offence in the NT may rely on a number of legal defences.
A person is not guilty of robbery if they were acting under duress when they committed the physical acts making up the offence. Duress exists when a person does an act only because they are subjected to threats of death or serious harm if they do not comply with the demands of another person.
For the defence of duress to succeed, the accused must have been subjected to threats of a sufficient level of seriousness that a person of reasonable firmness and courage would have yielded.
Violence was not used or threatened
A person is not guilty of robbery if they stole from the victim but did not use or threaten violence in the process. In this situation, the person could be found guilty of another offence such as stealing.
Accused owned the item stolen
A person is not guilty of robbery if they had a legitimate claim to the items that were allegedly stolen. In order for the offence of robbery to be made out, something must have been stolen. However, a person is not guilty of stealing if they had an honest claim to the items.
If a person is charged with robbery, but the items taken belonged to them, they could rely on this as a defence. However, if violence was used, they could still be found guilty of another offence, such as assault.
Assault with intent to steal
Under section 213 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to assault a person with the intent to steal a thing. This offence is punishable by a term of up to seven years imprisonment and is finalised in the summary jurisdiction.
A person may be found guilty of assault with intent to steal in circumstances where a robbery was attempted but not completed.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.