Robbery is regarded as being the most aggravated form of stealing; otherwise referred to as theft by the threat or use of force. Robberies include, “mugging”, “car-jackings”, mobile phone robberies, “bag-snatching”, armed robberies of banks and building societies. In general the force required need only be slight and thus the distinction from theft is unclear.

The Act itself is defined in Section 8 of the Theft Act 1968 as:

(1)A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

(2)A person guilty of robbery, or of an assault with intent to rob, shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life.

Actus Reus of Robbery

  1. Theft must be proved.
  2. Force must be used immediately before or at the time of stealing and in order to do so OR, someone must be put in fear of force, OR, defendant must seek to put someone in fear.
  3. Force must be used against a person not property.
  4. Any amount of force.
  5. Robbery is complete at the time of appropriation.

Mens Rea of Robbery

  1. Dishonesty and intention to permanently deprive
  2. Intention to use force in order to steal


  1. If the defendant establishes that although the property belonging to another with the intention to deprive, if he/she lacked dishonesty because of a belief such as a belief in his/her right to the property, robbery will be overturned.
  2. If the defendant argues that there was no intention to permanently to deprive.
  3. There will be no robbery if force was not used immediately before or at the time of the theft.
  4. The use of force must be intentional.

Difference between theft and robbery

A pickpocket, applying no force to the person, would be guilty of theft. An armed bank-robber would be guilty of robbery. This is due to the force involved.

Threat of Force

The threat does not need to result in actual fear or the actual infliction of force. As previously shown in Section 8 above the Act requires that the defendant puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subject to force.

Physical Force

Force must be used against a person not the property. If force is used on any person in order to steal, the offence will be robbery and not theft. However, forced does not need to be used against the person in possession of the property.

The amount of force necessary to be deemed robbery as a robbery if left for the jury to decide. It has been known if the past that a push or a nudge causing the victim to lose balance would be sufficient. 

Robbery complete at the time of appropriation


Ben runs up to Abigail and by force snatches her handbag from her grasp. Bun starts to run and drops the handbag. In this instance the snatching constituted the appropriation and provided all other elements of theft existed at that point, this was theft accompanied by the use of force and hence of robbery.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

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