Property Offences: Robbery
Updated: Oct 27
We provide an overview of the offence of Robbery in Victoria and discuss what the prosecution must prove defences and sentencing outcomes.
Table of Contents
What The Prosecution Must Prove
a person commits the offence of theft;
- appropriation of property belonging to another
- with the intention of permanently depriving that person of their property
- person acted dishonestly, and without lawful excuse
immediately before the theft or at the time of doing so and in order to do so
uses force on any person; or
or seeks to put any person in fear that he or another person will be then and there subjected to force
The accused will have “appropriated” property if she or he:
assumed any of the rights of the owner (s. 73(4) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic); and
adversely interfered with or usurped the owner's rights in some way (Roffel v. R  VR 511).
“Property” is defined to include “money and all other property real or personal including things in action and other tangible property” (Crimes Act 1958 s71(1)). A debt may also amount to property (R v Lloyd  QB 829.
'Belonging to another'
Property “belongs” to anyone who has possession or control of it, or who has any other proprietary right or interest in it (Crimes Act 1958 s71(2)). These interests include legal and equitable proprietary interests (R v Clowes (No 2)  2 All ER 316).
'Intention to permanently deprive'
The accused must have already formed the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property at the time of the appropriation (R v Easom  2 QB 315; Sharp v McCormick  VR 869).
'Accused acted dishonestly'
At common law, dishonesty means an accused acted without any claim of legal right (R v Salvo  VR 401; R v Bonollo  VR 633 and R v Brow  VR 783).
'Dishonesty' is defined under s. 73(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). This definition also provides that a person's appropriation is not to be regarded as dishonest if the person believed that:
i) She or he had a legal right to deprive the owner of the property; or
ii) The owner would have consented to the appropriation if s/he had known of it and the circumstances surrounding it; or
iii) The owner could not be discovered by taking reasonable steps.
Use of force
The minimum degree of force that must be applied is not defined under the Crimes Act or at common law (Hood v. R  WASCA 98).
Fear of force
The fear of force must be sufficient to cause intimidation (R v. Butcher  VR 43.
Seeking to put the victim in fear of force
It is not necessary to prove that the victim was in fact in fear when the threat was made. What must be proven by the prosecution is that an accused intended to put the victim in fear (R v. Fraser (1999) 109 A Crim R 460).
Immediately before or at the time
The prosecution must prove that the use of force occurred immediately before or at the time of the taking of property.
The Maximum Penalty for the Offence of Robbery
Under section 75(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), the maximum penalty for the offence of Robbery is 15 years.
Despite the high maximum penalty for this indictable offence, robbery may be heard and determined in the Magistrates' Court (see schedule 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic)) provided the property value alleged in the robbery does not exceed $100,000.
Defences to Robbery
The prosecution must prove each and every element described above to successfully prosecute an accused of robbery. Consequently, a defence to robbery may arise from a factual dispute as to any of the elements described above. Other defences including mental impairment, duress/necessity, or a honest and reasonable belief as to a claim of right over the property, may also be argued depending upon the particular circumstances of the case.
The seriousness of the offence can vary greatly depending upon the degree of violence used to effect the theft, the value of the property; whether the victim sustained any injuries.
Matters personal to the accused also play a role in sentencing (their age, criminal history).
As a general guide the Sentencing Advisory Council published the sentencing outcomes for the offence of robbery during the period 1 July 2016 - 30 June 2019 when the offence was heard in the Magistrates' Court:
Imprisonment - 53.6%
Youth Justice Centre Order - 4.5%
Fine - 3.6%
Other - 1.6%
Adjourned undertaking/dismissal/discharge - 7.3%
What are the Court Events for an Allegation of Robbery?
Robbery allegations proceed through the following stages:
Mention (and case conference negotiations)
Contest mention - where an allegation of assault cannot be finalised, and an accused may seek a sentence indication from the presiding Magistrate.
Contested hearing - where matter has not been resolved at a contest mention and proceeds as a not guilty plea. If a Magistrate finds the allegation(s) have not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, the charge(s) are dismissed. Conversely, if the allegation is proven, the Magistrate will impose a sentence (as described above).
For more detail see Criminal Proceedings in the Magistrates' Court.
Get Advice and Prepare Early
If you are facing an allegation of robbery, or any criminal offence, call our office to receive expert advice about your situation. Contact us to organise a case assessment.