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The Law of Robbery
The offence of robbery is contained in s.8 of the Theft Act 1968. In criminal law, robbery is a form of aggravated theft, in that it involves the offence of theft plus force or threat of force on a person. The maximum sentence for robbery is life imprisonment.
Under s.8 of the Theft Act 1968 "a person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force."
Actus reus of robbery
  • Steals
  • immediately before or at the time of stealing
  • Use of force or threat of force
  • on any person
  • use/threat of force in order to steal
This element of the actus reus of robbery requires that all element of theft must be established:
R v Robinson [1977] Crim LR 173    Case summary
Corcoran v Anderton (1980) 71 Cr App R 104  Case summary
Immediately before or at the time of stealing
The offence of theft is complete as soon as the appropriation has taken place. On a strict interpretation of the statute use of force to escape with stolen property would fall outside the ambit of the offence. However, the courts have adopted a pragmatic approach and have treated the appropriation as a continuing act.
R v Hale [1978] 68 Cr App R 415   Case summary
R v Lockley [1995] Crim LR 656   Case summary
However, see also
R v Vinall [2011] EWCA Crim 6252    Case summary

Force or threat of force
The required level of force used for robbery  is a question for the jury to decide. The jury are given no guidance as to the meaning of force. The Court of Appeal has been unwilling to interfere with juries' findings even where the level of force is minimal:
R v Dawson and James [1976] 64 Cr App R 150  Case summary
There is no requirement that the force is directly applied to a person:
R v Clouden [1987] Crim LR 56   Case summary
In order to steal
S. 8 requires the use/threat of force to be in order to steal. Thus the use of gratuitous violence at the time of stealing but not used in order to steal is strictly speaking outside the boundaries of the offence of robbery. Similarly if a person hits another with the intent to do GBH and knocks him unconscious then decides to steal his wallet would not be guilty of robbery. Although this point has not been litigated in the appeal courts and it may well be that a robust approach is taken.
Mens rea of robbery
  • The defendant must have the mens rea of theft ie dishonesty and intention to permanently deprive
The law of robbery