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Robbery Offences in Victoria (VIC)

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.

Robbery offences are some of the most serious forms of stealing actions and usually attract severe punishments under the Victorian State laws. The distinct property of this offence from other stealing offences is the presence of assault, threats of violence used on the offender. If the prosecution cannot prove the presence of assault or the likes, it can hardly qualify as a robbery offence.

The Crimes Act 1958 stipulates punishments, details and actions that constitute all forms of misdemeanours under the State of Victoria.

Robbery offences are a serious criminal offence and will show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

Robbery Offences in Victoria (VIC)

Section 75 of the Act focuses on Robbery offences, related charges and all other offences that can constitute a robbery charge. The section governs the legislation o Robbery offences, and stipulates a robbery offence is committed where;

A person steals in Victoria or obtains a property illegally in the presence of the owner with;

  • Violence, force, threats or other scary actions that constitute a violent action;
  • Uses such threatening actions during or immediately before/after the stealing offence.

The prosecutor must prove that the accused person-directed such an act of violence to complete or facilitate the stealing.

All these conditions must be satisfied before the court can accept the offence as a robbery offence.

What court hears a Robbery Offence in Victoria (VIC)

Robbery offences are considered indictable charges and offences under the Victorian Courts. Indictable offences are handled in higher courts/District courts by default. However, if both parties of the robbery offence agree to hear the matter in a lower court, the Magistrate can preside over such matters.

All matters handled in a magistrate court cannot incur more than a 5-year penalty term for a single charge.

However, cases of armed robbery are too serious to be heard in the Magistrate court in Victoria. They are strictly indictable offences and must be heard in a County Court or Supreme Court. Matters heard in a County or Supreme court can attract higher penalties reaching life imprisonment.

Where a matter is dealt with as an indictment charge, it must pass through an initial committal hearing. This hearing is a periluminal qualification for hearing the matter in the higher courts. The committal hearing is heard in a Magistrate court if the person is charged in an adult court, and a Children’s court if they are charged as juveniles.

The purpose of the committal hearing is to assess the prosecution's argument and decide if the evidence substantially shows that the accused is culpable. However, If the evidence is insufficient, the court will dismiss the charge.

What penalties does the court issue for robbery offences?

Under Section 75 of the Crimes Act 1958, a person guilty of robbery, or "assault with intent to rob", is guilty of an indictable crime, which incurs a level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is an irredeemable indictable offence. It includes cases where the offender while committing a stealing offence;

  • Uses a weapon, offensive instrument; guns, knives, syringes;
  • Other instruments that can serve as a weapon for such purposes;
  • Imitation of firearms, explosives, or other things
  • Uses other scary items or scary actions/aids the jury deems as “force”.

However, the use or threat of the weapon must be in connection or related to the stealing offence before the court can accept it as an armed robbery offence.

A person guilty of armed robbery is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 2 imprisonment (25 years maximum).

The aggravating circumstances for a robbery offence under the Sentencing Act 1991 occurs when;

  • The offender has with them a firearm at the time of the offence; or
  • The victim of the crime suffers an injury as a direct result of the offence; or
  • The offence occurs where the offender was in company with one or more other persons.

What are the elements that must be present in a Robbery offence?

The Prosecutor must prove before the court that the victim committed and should be convicted of the robbery offence. It must include evidence, witnesses, and arguments within the law that showed that the accused person.

Stole something

To prove the case of theft; the accused must be proven to have dishonestly appropriated property belonging to someone else to permanently deprive the owner.

However, the property that was stolen must be capable of being stolen as provided by Div 2, Part 1 of the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC). It follows that the property must consist of any of these (or others the jury considers a property)

includes money and all other property real or personal including things in action and other intangible property.

Properties may include, but not limited to:

  • Money
  • Personal property
  • Motor vehicles or aircrafts
  • Confidential information of a company
  • Electricity or gas
  • Cheques or bank accounts
  • Animals, including wild creatures
  • Land or things forming part of the land;
  • Especially items where you do not have the specific authority to do so, such as a trustee, personal representative or a liquidator of a company.

The accused used force or the fear of force

When the law speaks about the "use of force", it may be at the discretion of the jury to interpret what would have constituted "force" for the crime.

The definition of the force is not limited to being applied to the victim’s body alone. It can also be deemed as a force, even when it is applied to something the victim is carrying or other items, possession of the property the victim cares about.

The prosecutor can also prove that there was "force used" if the accused person put fear in the victim through threats of any sort. It can also include actions that made the victim feared that the threat would have happened on the spot or (in future).

The force was used before or at the time of the theft

The prosecutor must also satisfy the jury inquiry that the force was "related" to the stealing offence. If the jury does not consider the force to be concerning the offence, they will dismiss it as a robbery offence, and treat it under a different offence.

What is not considered stealing under the law?

Not all use of violence or threats will amount to the jury finding the accused guilty of robbery offences. Where the prosecution cannot prove that the accused person “stole” the item, the jury will consider it as an assault case in Victoria or any other related matter.

Section 72 and 73 of Div. 2 in the Crimes Act defines the offence of theft as having the following three elements.

  1. The accused appropriated property belonging to another;
  2. The accused did so to permanently deprive the other of the property; and
  3. The accused acted dishonestly.

For the jury to be convinced about the act of appropriation, the prosecution must prove that;

  • The accused appropriated something;
  • The thing appropriated was property; and
  • The property belonged to another person.

How does a person illegally appropriate a property?

Several court decisions in the past have adjusted and reviewed the activities or tasks that can constitute a person appropriating a property

  • ✔ Where a person assumes the rights of ownership by claiming rights to perform a duty only the owner should have right to;
  • ✔ The accused attempted to assume some rights of the owner;
  • ✔ Taking, using, damaging, extinguishing, lending, retaining, offering to sell another person property without the consent of the owner;
  • ✔ Returned a property in less usable condition than when they collected the property;
  • ✔ To "appropriate" property, the accused must have adversely interfered with or usurped the owner's rights in some way
  • ✔ If the accused "collects the property" innocently but later assumes rights over it by dealing with it as the owner, they will be guilty of appropriating it.

Offences including Vehicles

The Crimes Act (Section 79) defines and prohibits all illegal taking of a car or vehicle. However, the action is worse when it is done with the threat of a weapon (Section 79A).

The Judge or Jury of a Higher court can find an accused person guilty of a stealing offence of vehicles, aircraft and other vehicles where;

  • The person used, moved, drove or entered the vehicle without the consent of the owner
  • The person attempted/intended to control or drive the vehicle
  • The person rode along in the vehicle knowing that it was “illegally taken”.

Receiving Stolen items or their proceeds

Possessing or keeping the proceeds of stolen property can attract punishments for the original robbery offences. However, the Jury or Judge will require proof that you were aware that the item was stolen, and still harboured or received them.

The court will find guilty all those who;

  • Possessor keep a stolen item,
  • Receive a stolen item (where you know it was stolen),
  • Receives proceeds from or helps to dispose of a stolen item.

You can also be guilty of "receiving stolen items" even when you don't have such goods with you. It is enough for the court, if you can obtain them from another (who kept it) on request. It is also an offence to assist someone else to handle the goods.

Under the law, such offenders will be convicted the same as those who committed the original stealing offence (10 years imprisonment term)

Joint Robbery enterprise and Punishments

Where a group of people or a gang agree to commit a stealing offence (under the law), the court will equally find all of them guilty of the robbery offence.

The court will impose equal penalties on them all on the offences it convicts them. The court hardly distinguishes the individual participation of the members when imposing the convictions.

Committing a robbery offence in a group can qualify as an “aggravating” circumstance for a robbery offence.

Actual sentencing of Robbery offences in the past

Between the years 2011 and 214, the majority of people convicted of robbery offences received punishments of actual sentencing as stated in the Crimes Act.

However, about 32% of those convicted of Robbery offences received community-based orders instead of the stipulated punishments, and a smaller number got fines and suspended sentences.

As of June of 2020, Robbery and extortion offences accounted for 7.2% of all sentenced prisoners prisons.

These reports can be found on the official records of the Sentencing Advisory Council.

What defences can help me out of a Robbery Charge?

Getting a conviction record in a robbery charge will have a very devastating effect on your future. Under some VIC legislations, you may be prohibited from being admitted to certain roles or jobs.

If you get a summons to court for a robbery offence, you must go with your lawyer. It is a “legal-suicide to attempt to defend yourself from a robbery charge in court.

Your lawyer can explore some of these defences;

  1. You did not intend to steal the item
  2. Your lawyer can argue that you did not intend to steal the property;
  • Was falsely thought to have robbed
  • The owner was scared and ran off
  1. There was no threat, assault or use of force
  2. 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
  3. You did not take anything from the person
  4. 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
  5. You had a legal claim over the property claimed to be stolen
  6. Under the law, it is impossible to steal your own property. A person may charge you of a robbery offence if they were unaware that you had legal right over the property
  7. You thought you had a claim of right. The Court cannot convict you of a robbery offence if they believed you reasonably thought that you had a claim over the property. However, the court may convict you of the violent acts or threats or any other assault or injury for the action.

Do Robbery offences committed (VIC) show up on a nationally coordinated criminal history check?

If you get convicted for a robbery offence, it will show up on a police check certificate.

You can obtain your police check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC) website.

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