Robbery Offences (SA)
Robbery is a very serious offence that encompasses both violence and dishonesty. It is contained in section 137 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1936. It occurs when a person uses force or the threat of force to steal or to escape the scene of a theft. This page deals with robbery offence in South Australia.
What is robbery?
A robbery occurs when one or more persons use force, or threaten force, in order to carry out a theft, or in order to escape the scene of a theft. The force or threat of force must occur immediately before, during or after the theft.
For a person to be found guilty of robbery, the court must be satisfied that they:
- Used force against a person or threatened to do so;
- Permanently deprived a person of their lawful property;
- Used fraudulent action to take property.
The degree of force used does not have to be very great for a robbery charge to be proven. A robbery may involve a push, punch, threatened punch, or a threat with a knife or gun.
Penalty for robbery
The maximum penalty that applies to a charge of robbery is imprisonment for 15 years. If the offence is aggravated, the maximum penalty increases to imprisonment for life.
Under section 5AA of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, an offence is aggravated if any of a range of circumstances existed, including:
- The offence involved systematically and deliberately inflicting severe pain on the victim;
- The offence involved the use or threatened use of an offensive weapon;
- The offence was committed against a law enforcement officer;
- The offence was committed against a person who was under 12 or over 60;
- The offence was committed in company with one or more other persons.
Robbery is an indictable offence that can only be finalised in the District Court or Supreme Court. When a person is charged with a robbery offence, they must first attend the Magistrates Court (or Youth Court if they are under 18), where the matter will go through a number of preliminary mentions. The matter will then go through a committal hearing where a magistrate will assess whether there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt in a higher court. If the case is sufficiently strong, the matter will be committed to a higher court. If it is not, it will be dismissed.
Other related offences
If a person attempts a robbery, but the robbery is not completed, a court may find them guilty of attempted robbery. A person may also be charged with theft or with receiving stolen property rather than robbery if the prosecution feels that a a robbery charge will be difficult to prove.
When two of more people commit a robbery together, it is not necessary for all of them to have carried out the physical elements of the offence. This is because of the doctrine of common purpose, which holds that when two or more people commit an offence together, all of them are criminally responsible for what occurs provided they shared a ‘common purpose.’
In the following situations, more than one accused person could be found guilty of robbery:
- Person A and Person B accost Person C with the intention of stealing his wallet. Person A raises a fist to Person C and demands Person C hand over his wallet, which Person C hands over to Person A. In this example, both Person A and Person B are guilty of robbery even though Person B did not carry out any of the physical acts.
- Person A and Person B beat up Person D in order to steal his car. Person C does not strike Person D but jumps into the driver’s seat of the car and drives Person A and Person B away from the scene of the crime. In this example, Person A, Person B and Person C are all guilty of robbery, even though Person C did not take part in the assault.
If a person is found guilty of a robbery offence in South Australia, it is highly likely they will have a conviction imposed against them. Under section 24 of the Sentencing Act 2017, courts can impose fines or community service orders without recording convictions only where the court is satisfied that the offence was trifling, that the accused is unlikely to commit such an offence again and that good reason exists for not imposing a conviction.
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