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Robbery (Section 8, Theft Act 1968)

23 December 2021
Robbery & Theft

What is Robbery?

A person is guilty of robbery if they steal and immediately before or during uses force or threatens to use force. Robbery is often confused with burglary. Someone might say they have had their house 'robbed'. Burglary is also an offence under the Theft Act, but is committed when someone enters a building or part of a building as a trespasser, i.e. somewhere they do have permission to be .

Armed Robbery is a term used to describe robbery with a weapon, and often means a robbery of commercial premises such as a bank, shop, or cash in transit van. Any robbery lawyer should understand these distinctions. Even the most ‘ small time' robbery is considered to be a very serious offence, and the possibility of prison is something that specialist robbery lawyers are aware of.

Types of Robbery

Robbery generally falls into three categories:

  • Street Robbery or Mugging

    This is the most common type of crime, often committed by youths or people with drug dependencies. Money or other valuables such as a mobile phone are often demanded.

  • Robberies of small businesses.

    These may involve one or two people, and might include a petrol station or shop.

  • Commercial robberies.

    These robberies vary from a security van robbery type offence to a well prepared and professional bank robbery committed by intelligent and experienced organised criminals.

Strategy in Robbery Cases

The prosecution will attempt to prove that the defendant was involved in the offence, either by witness evidence, CCTV, forensic evidence or by linking items found on the defendant (or in their home) to the robbery. Items found could be things stolen from the robbery or items used in the alleged robbery, such as gloves or weapons.

Some above items can be explained innocently. If they cannot be linked to the scene of an alleged crime, but only to the defendant, then they do not necessarily prove guilt, but a competent specialist robbery lawyer will know before trial that a good explanation would usually be required.


Often CCTV is available to the prosecution, particularly in cases of street robbery. The quality of the CCTV will vary, and it is important that robbery lawyers examine the CCTV in detail, particularly when the allegation may involve a group.

DNA and Fingerprint Evidence

DNA and fingerprint evidence linking the person charged with robbery to the scene of the crime can be used by the prosecution to show guilt. This usually comes in two forms:

  • The first is evidence which is attached to an immovable part of the scene, such as fingerprints on the door of the shop.

  • The second type is evidence attached to a movable object found at the scene.

    This may include a fingerprint on a weapon found at the scene, or a DNA sample from a cigarette found at the scene.

Obviously, DNA or fingerprint evidence found on an immovable part of the scene implies that the defendant has been at the scene of the robbery, although not necessarily at the same time as the offence occurred. However, evidence on a movable object does not necessarily mean that the defendant has been involved in the robbery, and any robbery lawyer with experience will have successfully fought trials on this basis.

Mobile Phone Evidence

As with any serious criminal case, serious robbery prosecutions will often involve mobile phone evidence. The prosecution only needs to know the defendants mobile phone number to obtain information such as call logs and also cell site information, which can sometimes determine where the mobile phone was located at the time of the offence. Cell site information is not always conclusive and often needs to be challenged by robbery lawyers.

Possible sentences

For adults, this offence must be heard at a Crown Court before a judge and jury. The first hearing is at the Magistrates Court before the case is sent directly to the Crown Court. If convicted, a person charged with robbery can face a maximum of life imprisonment. Such sentences are very rare, and sentences starting at 4 -5 years are common. Conspiracy to rob may carry a sentence on conviction approaching or into double figures.

An offence of armed robbery (i.e. with a weapon) tends to attract a more serious penalty than robbery with no weapon.

Sentences for Youths (under 18's)

A youth (someone under 18) charged with robbery, will normally be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. The case will be sent to the Crown Court if they are charged with an adult or the offence is very serious i.e. offending is part of a group. 

The Court will look carefully at the sentencing guidelines and firstly decide whether the custody (prison) threshold has been passed, i.e. is a prison sentence the only option? The Court will consider;

Non Custodial

  • Threat or use of minimal force

  • Little or no physical harm to the alleged victim

  • Involvement in the offence through coercion, intimidation of exploitation

Custodial (prison)

  • Use of very significant force/violence

  • Threat or use of a weapon, such as a knife or a firearm

  • Significant physical injury caused to the alleged victim

The Court will also consider what is called aggravating factors (which make the offence more serious) and mitigating factors (which make the offence less serious) when passing sentence;

Aggravating Factors

  • Previous offending

  • Significant planning

  • Being the leader of the group involved

  • High value items stolen

Mitigating Factors

  • No previous offending

  • Only involved due to bullying, peer pressure etc

  • Genuine remorse

  • No planning involved

It is important that anyone arrested for robbery seeks free legal advice from robbery lawyers. As can be seen above, there are many factors to take into account, and a conviction might not only result in a prison sentence but damage to future career prospects.

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