Often individuals who are unfamiliar with the law specifically the Theft Act 1968 confuse an allegation associated with theft or robbery and yet there are stark differences between the two. Fundamentally, what is most important is understanding the difference in the potential repercussions an individual may face should they be charged with the more extreme of these two offences.
How is theft defined?
Theft can be defined as dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
So in essence, what does this mean?
The following are examples which specify how appropriating property (that being the rights of an owner) is said not to be dishonest if; the individual has the legal right to take that property, the owner would agree to them taking that property or the individual could not find the person to whom the property belongs to by taking reasonable steps.
Theft can scale from what could be described as petty shoplifting to theft of a motor vehicle or even theft during the course of employment.
Theft still proves to be one of the most common either way offences heard in the Magistrates Court on a day to day basis but if you are found to be charged with theft involving a high value of property, this matter may be committed to the Crown Court.
What must be appreciated is any theft conviction is defined as a conviction of dishonesty and the consequences may be damaging on an individual’s future prospects.
Sentencing of theft offences
Theft is triable either way with a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.
If a theft matter is to be dealt with in the Magistrates Court depending on the nature of the offence for example the property involved, financial loss incurred or there is a less significant breach of trust, the maximum sentence the Magistrates can impose rests on when the offence took place.
What is worth noting for any theft offence committed before 2nd May 2022, the maximum sentence for an either way offence was up to 6 months’ imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine. Any offence which transpired after that date, the Magistrates can now pass a maximum sentence of up to 12 months’ imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine.
The sentencing guidelines pay attention considerably to the impact this offence has borne on any victim involved particularly the emotional and financial distress caused.
How is robbery defined?
The more extreme of the two offences, involving the threat or use of violence and can only be heard in the Crown Court.
A person is guilty of robbery if he steals and immediately before or during that time and in order to steal that property, he uses or puts force on any person or attempts to put that person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.
The question of whether force has been used is a matter for the court to decide.
In such cases, the offence of theft must be proved before a robbery can be substantiated. The use of force or the threat of force, must be for the purpose of stealing.
If at the end of an assault, the offender then decides to take property belonging to the victim for example a wallet, this does not constitute a robbery and would be separated into two offences; that being assault and theft.
If an honest belief that a legal claim of right to the property exists this may then compose a defence for those in question.
The sentencing guidelines for offences of this nature reflect and depend on the specific characteristics in which the robbery was carried out for example the value of the robbery. Robbery is indictable only, punishable with life imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both.
The guidelines categorise the elements to the robbery determining whether; the robbery can be classed as a street and less sophisticated commercial robbery, professionally planned or a robbery which occurred at a dwelling.
Once this has been established, then raises the question of the level of culpability and harm triggered, this will then determine the range or starting point for any sentence to be passed in the Crown Court.
It is vital that you seek representation from expert solicitors from an early stage in the proceedings. Defending allegations of robbery may involve expertise in dealing with phone evidence, cell site analysis, content of text messages as well as fingerprint evidence and evidence of undercover officers, particularly observation evidence. Often cases require careful negotiations to be made with the Crown and it is important you are represented by experienced solicitors from the outset.
- 2023 – R v D – Represented a defendant initially investigated in relation to theft from employer to the value of £30,000+. Later charged with fraud by abuse of position to a lesser value, guilty plea entered and custodial sentence avoided.
- 2023 – R v F – Represented a defendant charged with robbery and attempt robbery. Following negotiations with the Crown, guilty plea entered to one count of robbery and suspended sentence imposed.
- 2022 – R v H – Conspiracy to commit robbery. Prepared statement at the police station denying involvement. Resulted in no further action.
- 2022 – R v L – Robbery offence, advised to make no comment due to poor evidence. Resulted in no further action.
- 2020 – R v R – Represented defendant in a multi-handed case involving serious allegations of conspiracy to rob and burgle with goods stolen in excess of £1.3million.
- 2020 – R v B – Represented a defendant charged with Attempted Robbery and possession of a knife, after discussions with the crown negotiated a plea to a lesser offence of affray.
- 2019 – R v M – Represented a defendant charged with theft from employer amounting to over £15,000 of property .After careful analysis of the evidence, negotiations with the crown resulted in the amount being lowered and the defendant avoided a custodial sentence.
Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence Law Firm London & Manchester
It is important that you seek representation from expert solicitors from an early stage in the proceedings. Defending allegations of robbery may involve expertise in dealing with phone evidence, cell site analysis, content of text messages as well as fingerprint evidence and evidence of undercover officers, particularly observation evidence. Often cases require careful negotiations to be made with the Crown and it is important you are represented by experienced solicitors from the outset.
Olliers provide specialist advice and representation throughout England and Wales. We are previous winners of the Manchester Legal Awards Crime Team of the Year and are ranked as a Top Tier criminal firm in both the 2023 editions of the Legal 500 and Chambers Directory.
If you are facing an allegation of robbery or theft please contact us by telephone on 0161 834 1515, by email to email@example.com or complete the form below.