Robbery In Melbourne
Robbery is known as a composite offence as it is both a property offence and a violent offence. It occurs when violence is used in the course of stealing property from a person. The offence of robbery in Melbourne and elsewhere in Victoria is governed by the Crimes Act 1958.
Section 75 of the Victorian Crimes Act sets out the elements of the offence of robbery. Robbery can be proven if it can be established beyond a reasonable doubt that a person stole and immediately before or at the time of stealing, they use force on another person or put the person in fear of being subjected to force.
Robbery in Melbourne and elsewhere in Victoria is punishable by a maximum of 15 years imprisonment.
Section 75A of the Crimes Act makes it an offence in Victoria to commit a robbery using a firearm, offensive weapon, explosive or imitation firearm or explosive. This is armed robbery, which is punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 25 years.
Elements of the offence of robbery
For a court to find a person guilty of a robbery or armed robbery, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
That the accused stole something
To fulfil this element, the prosecution must prove that the accused dishonestly appropriated property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive them of it.
The accused used force or the fear of force
There is no minimum level of force required for a robbery charge to be proven. The force does not have to be applied to the victim’s body; it may be applied to something the victim is carrying.
To establish that the accused put a person in fear of the use of force the prosecution must prove that a threat was made to the person and that they feared that the threat would be carried out immediately and not in the future.
The accused used force before or during the theft
Force or fear of force must have been used at the time of the theft or before the theft. If force was not applied until after the theft occurred, robbery is not made out.
The accused used force to commit a theft
The accused must have used or threatened force in order to achieve the theft. If the use of force and the theft occurred independently, robbery is not made out.
Defences to robbery
A person may defend a robbery charge by relying on a legal or a factual defence, Legal defences that are available to a robbery or armed robbery charge include the defence of duress, where the accused argues that they were ‘forced’ to commit the offence by threats of violence by another person. The defence of immature age can also be argued where the accused is under 14 and was unable to understand that the act was wrong.
It is also a defence to a robbery charge to argue that the accused honestly believed that they were the legal owner of the property as in such a case, no theft has occurred.
A robbery charge may also be contested on the basis of a factual defence such as mistaken identity or by relying on an alibi.
Robbery in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria is an indictable offence. It can be finalised in the higher courts but is often heard in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court by consent between the parties. In the Magistrates Court, the most severe penalty that can be imposed for a single charge is five years imprisonment.
Armed robbery is a strictly indictable offence, meaning it can only be finalised in the County Court or Supreme Court. When a matter is dealt with on indictment, it must first go through a committal hearing which is held in the Magistrates Court if the accused is an adult and in the Children’s Court if they are under 18.
A committal hearing allows the defence to test the prosecution case to establish whether the evidence is sufficient to support the charge. If the evidence is found to be inadequate, the court will dismiss the matter.
According to the Sentencing Advisory Council, the majority of people sentenced for robbery in the Victorian Magistrates Court between 2011 and 2014 receive sentences of actual imprisonment. However, a large percentage receive a community-based order and a small number receive other penalties. Most people who are sentenced to imprisonment for robbery offences receive between 12 and 18 months.
In the higher courts, the majority of offenders sentenced for robbery received a sentence of imprisonment of between 12 and 14 months. Only a small number receive non-custodial sentences.
If you require legal advice or representation in relation to robbery in Melbourne or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.