This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Robbery Offences (Vic)


Robbery is known as a composite offence, meaning that it is both a property offence and a violent offence. In Victoria robbery is governed by the Crimes Act 1958. 

Robbery

Section 75 of the Victorian Crimes Act sets out the offence of robbery, which is committed when a person steals, where immediately before or at the time of stealing, they use force on a person or put a person in fear of being subjected to force.

In Victoria, robbery is punishable by a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. 

Armed robbery

Under Section 75A of the Crimes Act, it is an offence to commit a robbery using a firearm, offensive weapon, imitation firearm, explosive or imitation explosive. This is punishable by a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

Elements of the offence of robbery

To prove that a person is guilty of a robbery or an armed robbery, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

That the accused stole something.

To prove that a theft occurred, the accused must be proven to have dishonestly appropriated property belonging to someone else with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it.

The accused used force or the fear of force. 

The law does not set a minimum level of force required to constitute ‘force’ for the purpose of a robbery charge. It is also not required that the force be applied to the victim’s body; force may be applied to something the victim is carrying. To establish that the accused put someone in fear of the use of force the prosecution must prove that a threat of some sort was made. It will also require the victim to have feared the threat would be carried out on the spot (not in the future). 

The accused used force before or at the time of the theft.

The force or fear of force must have been applied at the time of or before the theft. If force was applied only after the theft had occurred, the offence of robbery will not be made out.

The accused used force in order to commit a theft.

The accused must have threatened to use or used force in order to achieve the theft. 

Defences to robbery

A person may validly defend a robbery charge in a number of ways. Defences that are available to a robbery or armed robbery charge include the defence of duress and immature age (where the accused is under 14). A robbery charge may also be contested on a factual basis such as mistaken identity.

It is also a defence to a robbery charge if the accused had an honest belief that he or she was the legal owner of the property as in such a case, no theft has occurred.

Which court?

Robbery is an indictable offence. It can be heard in the higher courts but is often heard in the Magistrates Court by consent between the parties. In the Magistrates Court, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single charge is imprisonment for five years.

Armed robbery is a strictly indictable offence and must be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court on indictment. 

When a matter is dealt with on indictment, it must first proceed through a committal hearing. The committal hearing will be held in the Magistrates Court if the accused is an adult and in the Children’s Court if they are a juvenile.

The purpose of a committal hearing is to test the prosecution case to establish whether the evidence is sufficient that the accused could be found guilty. If the evidence is found to be insufficient, the court will dismiss the charge. 

Penalties

According to the statistics released by the Sentencing Advisory Council, between 2011 and 2014, the majority of people sentenced for robbery in the Victorian Magistrates Court received sentences of actual imprisonment. However, a large percentage (around 32%) received a community-based order and a small number received other penalties, such as fines and suspended sentences. Most people sentenced to imprisonment for robbery offences received between 12 and 18 months.

In the higher courts, the majority of people sentenced for robbery received a sentence of imprisonment of between one and two years. Only a small minority of these offenders receive non-custodial sentences.

If you require legal advice or representation in a criminal matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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