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  • Robbery Offences in South Australia (SA)

    There are many forms by which the SA courts can handle stealing offences under the Law. These laws define stealing crimes to include actions irrespective of their impact or severity and stipulate the penalties. Some of the violations the law lists range from minor shoplifting to violations like;

    • Burglary,
    • Robbery,
    • Theft,
    • Larceny,
    • And other violations or illegal taking of a person’s property.

    There are two legislations in SA that deals with stealing offences and guides/directs other court proceedings for such crimes.

    A stealing offence can be prosecuted under the;

    If you are convicted in an SA court for a robbery offence, the offence will show up on a national police record check in SA. Due to the seriousness of a robbery offence, the offence will in most cases not be eligible for the spent convictions scheme in South Australia and will remain on an individual's criminal record for an indefinite period of time.

    What is a Robbery Offence?

    Under Div. 3 Section 137 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, a robbery offence is defined as;

    • The person who uses force, or threatens to use power, against another to commit the theft; or,
    • Uses illicit power, or threatens to use force, against another to escape from the scene of the offence; and

    And where such pressure or show of it is applied;

    It is used, or the threat is made, at the time of, or immediately before or after, the theft.

    What Court handles a Robbery Offence in SA?

    Robbery offences are usually considered a severe offence in Australia, including South Australia. The matters of robbery will usually be heard in a higher court (Supreme or District Court).

    If a higher court handles the robbery case, it will issue the final verdicts on all Robbery cases and cannot be contested in another court.

    If the Jury finds a person guilty of a robbery offence, they will impose penalties of 15 years imprisonment.

    However, if the Court convicts you of robbery offences with aggravating circumstances, the punishments can be up to a life imprisonment term.

    The components of a Robbery Offence

    The Robbery offence usually contains an element to either of the following;

    • Steal;
    • Deprive a lawful owner of their property (permanent deprive);
    • Use fraudulent action to take property;
    • Use a property without the consent of the owner;
    • Dispose of use of a property without the consent of the owner.

    What is a "stealable" item under the Law?

    1. All inanimate items, whatever is the property of any person, and which is movable, is capable of being stolen.
    2. All inanimate items, whatever is the property of any person, and which is movable, is capable of being stolen.
    3. All inanimate items which another person owns and is capable of being moved. It also includes; things capable of being stolen once it becomes movable and made mobile to steal.
    4. All tame animals, even those tame/wild by nature (then tamed) that is;
      1. Another's property,
      2. Capable of being stolen.

    If the elements of theft cannot be made from the robbery charge, then the case cannot stand under the Law.

    The force used

    The Jury will use their discretion to describe acts of force where one is not clear. However, general proof of "force" can be;

    • Wrenching the property from the victim's hands,
    • Hit, shove, push or tackled them with the fist or used a form of assault,
    • Use of weapon to threaten or attempt to rob,
    • Use of other equipment that is converted to a weapon for the robbery charge

    Immediately before or at the time of

    The prosecutor must prove that "force" is used just before or during the stealing offence. If such "force" is used after the robbery is complete, it cannot qualify as a robbery offence/action.

    However, the courts hold that the appropriation was a continuous act, and it would be artificial to distinguish between the precise moment it ends.

    Only the Jury can finally determine if the illegal appropriation was still ongoing when the offender used such force.

    The following words are referenced to the case of (R v Hale (1979) 68 Cr. App. R. 415)

    “To say that such conduct is concluded as soon as he (accused) lays hands upon the property, or when he (accused) first manifests an intention to deal with it as his, is contrary to common sense and the natural meaning of words.”

    Assault with intent to Rob

    The Judge/Jury can rule that there was an attempted robbery if there was an intent to rob with assault. The prosecutors will usually charge a case of theft as an attempted robbery if there was substantial evidence of the plan to rob.

    The offence of Keeping a Stolen Possession

    The Law can find a person guilty of a robbery or related offence if they are found with possessions of stolen property, especially where such property is stolen.

    If the Court finds you with such property either;

    • You were gifted the property,
    • You received proceeds of the property,
    • You helped to keep the stolen property.

    The Court will issue similar penalties to the person as if they committed the original robbery offence.

    What is the difference between Theft and a Robbery Offence?

    Section 134 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) outlines theft whereas Section 137 outlines Robbery. Lots of offences are muddled into the offence for theft. It includes other offences like;

    • Grand theft,
    • Petty theft,
    • Larceny,

    The offence of theft generally means to;

    • Illegally appropriate a property or,
    • Move such property without the consent of the owner,
    • The accused person retained or transferred such property and intended to "permanently deprive" the owner.

    Generally speaking, a theft offence occurs without the use of threat or force.

    Joint and Aggravated Robbery

    The Court will find all guilty participants of a common robbery charge guilty of aggravated robbery.

    Suppose that X and Y stole from a drugstore. X assaults the Cashier while Y takes money from behind the counter. In this case, both are guilty of robbery on principle stipulated by the High Court in McAuliffe v The Queen ((1995) 183 CLR 108).

    Robbery committed in such circumstances is treated as aggravated robbery offences. It elicits the principle that, where the robbery offence is committed jointly, all participants are guilty of aggravated robbery irrespective of whether it can be established against a particular person.

    Do Robbery convictions show up in my Criminal records?

    If the Jury finds you guilty of a robbery offence in SA, the will impose penalties as per the following Acts:

    • Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 for serious offences;
    • Shop theft (Alternative enforcement) Act 2000

    There are few court programs or intervention programs that can mitigate or replace convictions for robbery offences. If the Court convicts you of a robbery charge, it will appear on your criminal record check and will stay there for life.

    Defences for a Robbery Offence

    The Court deals with robbery offences as serious criminal offences under the Law.

    If you receive a court summons for a robbery charge, you should contact the services of a criminal lawyer experienced in South Australian criminal laws.

    A robbery offence on your criminal record can damage your prospects or applications where your national criminal history is assessed for work purposes.

    However, in Court, your lawyer can help to seek intervention programs in SA through a;

    In Court, your lawyer can explore any of the following defences;

    You were not the one who committed the robbery

    Your lawyer can object to the robbery charge by stating that it was a case of mistaken identity. There are cases where a person is accused falsely and charged with robbery due to "coincidences" or having any of their property at the crime scene.

    You thought you had the claim of right.

    The Court could not convict you of a robbery offence if they believed you reasonably thought that you had claimed over the property. However, the Court may convict you of the violent acts or threats or any other assault or injury for the action.

    You had a legal claim over the property claimed to be stolen

    Under the Law, it is impossible to steal your own property. A person might charge you of a robbery offence if they were unaware that you had legal right over the property.

    You did not intend to steal the item.

    Your lawyer can argue that you did not intend to steal the property;

    • They were falsely thought to have robbed
    • The owner was scared and ran off
    • There was no threat or use of force

    If your counsel can successfully argue that you did not use or attempt to use force to commit the offence, the Court can withdraw the robbery offence and convert it to ordinary theft.

    Successfully raise duress or self-defence as the reason

    The Court may consider a defence where the accused person can successfully prove that they acted under duress or were acting in self-defence for the act.

    An example is where a person snatches a car to attend to an emergency (pregnant woman, terminal actions, and so on.)

    You did not take anything from the person.

    If your counsel can successfully argue that you did not take anything from the victim, the Judge may acquit you of the robbery offence or try you on another offence relating to the charge.

    How can I obtain my criminal record check in South Australia?

    You can obtain your police check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC) website. The application and informed consent form can be completed online. The results will be dispatched to your email.

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