robbery, in law, felonious taking of property from a person against his will by threatening or committing force or violence. The injury or threat may be directed against the person robbed, his property, or the person or property of his relative or of anyone in his presence at the time of the robbery. There is no robbery unless force or fear is used to overcome resistance. Thus, surreptitiously picking a man's pocket or snatching something from him without resistance on his part is larceny, but not robbery. Robbery differs from extortion, where force or fear are used to obtain the consent of the victim. The distinction, however, is tenuous. In some states there are several degrees of robbery with graduated penalties; aggravating circumstances—e.g., the use of firearms—result in a greater penalty.

Robbery is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. More precisely, at common law, robbery was defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. It should be noted, in common with most legal terms, the precise definition of robbery varies between jurisdictions. Robbery is also when there is forced intimidation placed upon the victim/victims.

Common issues in differentiating robbery from simple theft is the degree of force required and when the force is applied. For example, in a purse grab the thief takes a purse off his victim's shoulder. The victim might not have noticed. Whether this is an example of robbery or theft is not clear. What if, in pulling the purse, the victim is pulled to the ground, but still does not have time to offer resistance? Or if the purse strap is cut by the thief with a knife? The answers to these questions will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The element of force differentiates robbery from embezzlement, larceny, and other types of theft. Piracy (robbery at sea) is a type of robbery. Armed robbery involves the use of a weapon. Aggravated robbery involves the use of a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon. Highway robbery or "mugging" takes place outside and in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot. Carjacking is the act of stealing a car from a victim by force. Criminal slang for robbery includes "blagging" (armed robbery, usually of a bank), and "steaming" (organised robbery on underground train systems).

English law

Under section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968, robbery is an indictable only offence which occurs if the defendant:
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.
The elements of the offence are:


This requires evidence to prove a theft as set out in s.1(1) Theft Act, 1968.

Actual or threatened force against the person

The threat or use of force must take place immediately before or at the time of the theft intentionally or recklessly in order to commit it. Force used after the theft is complete will not turn the theft into a robbery. It may however constitute another criminal offence, such as assault.

Puts or seeks to put anyone in fear

The threat or use of force against the person must be made immediately before or at the time of the theft and in order to commit it. Where a threat of force is used it must amount to a threat of then and there subjecting the victim, or some other person to force.

A robbery would be committed if an aggressor forcibly snatched a mobile phone or if he used a knife to make an implied threat of violence to the holder and then took the phone. The victim of the theft need not be the person who is threatened or assaulted. It is not necessary to prove that the victim was actually frightened. The prosecution must prove that the defendant put or sought to put the victim or some other person of being then and there subjected to force.

A robbery would also be committed where the aggressor steals from a jeweller by threatening to assault a customer visiting the shop in order to force the jeweller to hand over his stock. A threat must be immediate - a threat that the victim will then and there be subjected to force.

A theft accompanied by a threat to damage property in order to commit it will not constitute robbery, but may (depending on the other requirements of that offence) disclose an offence of blackmail.

Property stolen during a robbery remains stolen and thus its disposal or realization etc will still constitute an offence of handling stolen property.

Following R v Mitchell (2005) All ER (D) 74, the sentencing guidelines provided in Attorney General's References (Nos 4 and 7 of 2002) (2002) EWCA Crim 127 no longer apply to street robbery involving the use of guns for which more severe deterrent sentences will almost invariably be required. In November 2005, the Sentencing Guidelines Council issued new draft guidelines concerning robbery . See below for difinitive guidelines re robbery.

Assault with intent to rob

An alternative offence under s8(2) of the 1968 Act is assault, i.e. any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another to fear the immediate and unlawful use of force, with an intention to rob. So this offence is an option instead of charging an attempt if the defendant is unsuccessful in his or her attempt to steal, but uses or threatens the use of force.


The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Robbery and assault with intent to rob are also subject to the mandatory sentencing regime under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. On the 25 July 2006 the Sentencing Guidelines Council published Definitive Guideline on Robbery


The word "rob" came via French from Late Latin words (e.g. deraubare) of Germanic origin, from Common Germanic raub- = "clothes", as in old times (before modern cheap mechanized mass production of clothes) one main target of robbers was often the victim's clothes.

During the English Civil War, Cromwell's supporters castigated Prince Rupert by calling him "Prince Robber".

See also



  • Allen, Michael. (2005). Textbook on Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-927918-7.
  • Criminal Law Revision Committee. 8th Report. Theft and Related Offences. Cmnd. 2977
  • Griew, Edward. Theft Acts 1968 & 1978. London: Sweet & Maxwell. ISBN 0-421-19960-1
  • Ormerod, David. (2005). Smith and Hogan Criminal Law, London: LexisNexis. ISBN 0-406-97730-5
  • Smith, J. C. (1997). Law of Theft. London: LexisNexis. ISBN 0-406-89545-7

External links

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