The Law on Robbery
This offence is governed by the Theft Act 1968.
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.
On conviction, this offence carries a maximum of life imprisonment, and sentences starting at 4 -5 years are common.
Strategy in Robbery Cases
There are no hard and fast rules for winning these cases, but the basics remain important. Going through all of the evidence, both prosecution witness statements and police records and also forensic evidence in detail and analysing it is very important
A person is guilty of robbery if he steals and immediately before or during he uses force threatens to use force. Robbery is a term used to describe robbery with a weapon, and usually means a robbery of a commercial premises such as a bank.
Even the most ‘small time’ robbery is considered to be a very serious offence, and prison is often a possibility after conviction.
Types of Robbery
Robbery generally falls into three categories.
• Street Robbery or Mugging is a low level type of crime, often committed by youths or people with drug dependancies. 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 etc.
• Commercial robberies. These robberies vary from a security van robbery type offence, to well prepared and professional bank robberies committed by intelligent and experienced organised criminals.
Evidence used in Robbery Cases
Where the defendant or defendants can be linked to items such as tools which could be used in a robbery, or might have already been used in a robbery, the prosecution will seek to use this evidence as proof of guilt. Items which might require explanation from an accused person include:
• A balaclava or other disguise
• Weapons such as guns or other offensive weapons
Some of the above items can be explained innocently. If they cannot be linked to the scene of an alleged crime, but only to the suspect, then they do not necessarily prove guilt, but a good explanation would usually be required.
DNA and Fingerprint Evidence
DNA and fingerprint evidence linking the defendant 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 a bank.
The second type is evidence attached to a movable object found at the scene. This may include a fingerprint on a gun 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. However, evidence on a movable object does not necessarily mean that the defendant has been involved in the robbery, and we have successfully fought trials on this basis.
Mobile Phone Evidence
As with any serious criminal case involving more than one defendant, serious robbery prosecutions will often involve mobile phone evidence. Evidence relating to mobile phones can be obtained usually only once sim cards have been seized, if the numbers are unknown to the police. These will be used to provide information relating to phone traffic between different numbers of defendants, the content of all text messages, and even the approximate locations of the relevant mobile phones while switched on, using technology known as phone mapping or cell site analysis. Cell site analysis is expensive and obtaining this evidence takes time, so will usually only be used in more serious cases.
Sentencing for Robbery
Obviously, armed robbery (i.e. with a weapon) tends to attract a more serious penalty than robbery with no weapon, but in fact judges use 3 levels of seriousness when deciding how to sentence.
“Level 1” seriousness is for a robbery with minimal force.
“Level 2” seriousness involves the use of a weapon.
“Level 3” Seriousness involves use of a weapon and a lot of force or serious injury.