Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968 provides:
“(1) 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
(2) A person guilty of robbery, or of an assault with intent to rob, shall on
conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life.”
Robbery is triable only on indictment.
Robbery is theft aggravated by the threat or use of force. The elements of
theft must be established if a conviction for robbery is to be obtained. Thus
for example, a person who forces another to hand over money, believing that he
has a legal right to it, he is not guilty of theft:
·In R v Robinson  Crim LR 173, it was alleged that D, who was owed
£ 7 by V’s wife, approached V, brandishing a knife. A fight followed, during
which V dropped a £ 5 note. D picked it up and demanded the remaining £ 2 owed
to him. Allowing D’s appeal against conviction for robbery, the Court of Appeal
held that the prosecution had to prove that D was guilty of theft, and that he
would not be (under s2(1)(a) of the 1968 Act) if he honestly believed that he
had a right in law to deprive V of the money, even though he knew he was not
entitled to use the knife to get it.
·In R v Forrester  Crim LR 793, V had retained D’s £ 200 deposit when
D’s tenancy terminated. D believed he had been asked to leave without
justification and that the deposit was being unfairly withheld. D, accompanied
by a friend, went to V’s house, burst in when the door was opened and seized
some items whilst his friend restrained V. His intention was to use the items to
bargain for the return of his money. If this failed, he would sell the items and
the use money for a deposit on another flat, returning the excess to V. D’s
conviction for robbery was upheld by the Court of Appeal. It was held that he
knew he had no right to the items themselves and so could not claim that he was
not dishonest under s2(1)(a).
A temporary appropriation will amount to theft:
·In Corcoran v Anderton (1980) 71 Cr App R 104, it was held that a robbery
was committed where a woman’s handbag was wrestled from her grasp, even though
it then fell to the ground and was not made off with.
Where the accused has used force on another (or put another person in fear of
force) in order to steal but has not achieved the appropriation of any property,
and is therefore not guilty of robbery, he can be convicted of assault with
intent to rob, which is also triable only on indictment.
2. USE OF FORCE
The question of whether or not force has been used is a question of fact to
be determined by a jury, the Court of Appeal so held in R v Dawson  Crim
LR 692. In practice it appears that very little force is actually required:
·In R v Dawson  the defendant had nudged the victim causing him to
lose his balance so that his wallet could be more easily taken. His appeal
against a conviction for robbery was refused.
·In R v Clouden  Crim LR 56, the defendant had pulled on the victim’s
handbag to wrentch it from her hands. The Court of Appeal held that whilst a
snatching of property without resistance from the owner, such as by a
pickpocket, should not amount to robbery, the question of whether force has been
used ‘on any person’ should be left to the jury. The defendant was held to have
been rightly convicted of robbery.
3. IN ORDER TO STEAL
The force, or threat of force, must be used in order to steal according to
Therefore, if D attacks V in order to settle an argument, and having hit V to
the ground finds his wallet to have fallen out, D will not be guilty of robbery
should he run off with the wallet, because the force was not used by him with
the intention of stealing. Similarly, the use of gratuitous violence after a
theft would not constitute robbery because the force is not used in order to
enable the theft to be carried out.
4. IMMEDIATELY BEFORE OR AT THE TIME OF STEALING
Section 8(1) clearly provides that the force must be used immediately before,
or at the time of, stealing, raising the question of for how long theft
continues (an issue to be decided by the jury).
·In R v Hale (1978) Cr App R 415, D and E entered V’s house and while D was
upstairs stealing a jewellry box, E was downstairs tying up V. The Court of
Appeal refused to quash their convictions for robbery though the appropriation
of the jewellery box might have been completed before the force was used. The
court said the appropriation should be regarded as a continuing act and it was
open to the jury on these facts to conclude that it continued while V was tied
The matter needs to be looked at in a common sense way; while the force must
be used at the time of the theft and in order to steal, the theft needs to be
looked at in its entirety.
5. MENS REA
While the mens rea of robbery is not spelt out in s8, it is clear that there
must be the mens rea of theft, and the force or threatened force must be in
order to steal.
Cite This Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below: