Charged with Robbery or Armed Robbery? A Basic Guide from a Specialist Robbery Lawyer
A person is guilty of robbery if he steals and immediately before or during he uses force or threatens to use force. Armed Robbery is a term used to describe robbery with a weapon, and usually means a robbery of a commercial premises such as a bank. Any robbery lawyer should understand these distinctions.
Even the most ‘small time’ robbery is considered to be a very serious offence, and the possibility of prison is something that the lawyers of anyone charged with robbery should be aware of. Mary Monson Solicitors are happy to speak with anyone faced with a robbery charge.
Case studies – Robbery Lawyer
We have included a brief case study of a case we have defended, and also provided a basic guide to the law relating to robbery.
Case Study 1
Our client was charged with robbery of two security van robberies. One of the robberies was of £30,000 in cash. The client was also charged with kidnapping, escaping police custody, and theft of a police vehicle.
We approached each charge individually and in great detail, finding inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence and made the police and civilian witnesses account for the contradictions. Verdict: Not guilty of all charges, in three separate trials.
Case Study 2
Our client was charged with robbery of a farmhouse. We conducted a full investigation into all of the prosecution evidence. We did a detailed comparison of the observation evidence with the prosecution witness statements, and the police work records, and found inconsistencies which cast doubt on the whole case.
We also did full background research on the main prosecution witnesses and found that one of them had been suspected of criminal activity by the police in the past.
Our barrister brought all of the findings of our specialist robbery lawyer findings to the attention of the jury during the trial. Verdict: not guilty.
Types of Robbery
Robbery generally falls into three categories:
- Street Robbery or Mugging is a low level type of crime, often committed by youths or people with drug dependancies. Money or other valuables such as a mobile phone are often demanded.
- Robberies of small businesses. These may involve one or two people, and might include a petrol station etc.
- Commercial robberies. These robberies vary from a security van robbery type offence, to well prepared and professional bank robberies committed by intelligent and experienced organised criminals.
Evidence used in Robbery Cases
Where the defendant or defendants can be linked to items such as tools which could be used in a robbery, or might have already been used in a robbery, the prosecution will seek to use this evidence as proof of guilt.
Items which might require explanation from a person charged with robbery include:
- A balaclava or other disguise
- Weapons such as guns or other offensive weapons
Some of the above items can be explained innocently. If they cannot be linked to the scene of an alleged crime, but only to the suspect, then they do not necessarily prove guilt, but a competent specialist robbery lawyer will know before trial that a good explanation would usually be required.
DNA and Fingerprint Evidence
DNA and fingerprint evidence linking the person charged with robbery to the scene of the crime can be used by the prosecution to show guilt. This usually comes in two forms:
- The first is evidence which is attached to an immovable part of the scene, such as fingerprints on the door of a bank.
- The second type is evidence attached to a movable object found at the scene. This may include a fingerprint on a gun found at the scene, or a DNA sample from a cigarette found at the scene.
Obviously DNA or fingerprint evidence found on an immovable part of the scene implies that the defendant has been at the scene of the robbery, although not necessarily at the same time. However, evidence on a movable object does not necessarily mean that the defendant has been involved in the robbery, and any robbery lawyer with experience will have successfully fought trials on this basis.
Mobile Phone Evidence
As with any serious criminal case involving more than one defendant, serious robbery prosecutions will often involve mobile phone evidence. A competent robbery lawyer will be aware that evidence relating to mobile phones can be obtained usually only once sim cards have been seized, or if the numbers are unknown to the police.
These will be used to provide information relating to phone traffic between different numbers of defendants, the content of all text messages, and even the approximate locations of the relevant mobile phones while switched on, using technology known as phone mapping or cell site analysis. Cell site analysis is expensive and obtaining this evidence takes time, so will usually only be used in more serious cases. It is also not always conclusive, and should not be taken to automatically have the significance that the prosecution says it has.
Charged with robbery, but what are the possible sentences?
Obviously, armed robbery (i.e. with a weapon) tends to attract a more serious penalty than robbery with no weapon, but in fact judges use 3 levels of seriousness when deciding how to sentence.
- Level 1: Seriousness is for a robbery with minimal force.
- Level 2: Seriousness involves the use of a weapon.
- Level 3: Seriousness involves use of a weapon and a lot of force or serious injury.
Certain factors will increase the level of seriousness for the defendant. These include:
- A vulnerable victim
- A large number of people involved in the offence
- Being a leader in the robbery
- A high value of items taken
- An offence at night
- Offenders wearing a disguise
Other factors that often decrease the level of seriousness and therefore the sentence include:
- The offence being unplanned/opportunistic
- The defendant having only minor involvement in the offence
- Voluntary return of property that was taken
The Law on Robbery
This offence is governed by the Theft Act 1968.
This offence must be heard at a Crown Court before a judge and jury. The first hearing is at the Magistrates Court, before the case is sent directly to the Crown Court.
If convicted, a person charged with robbery can face a maximum of life imprisonment. Such sentences are very rare, however, and sentences starting at 4 -5 years are common. Conspiracy to rob may carry a sentence on conviction approaching or into double figures.
What makes for a good robbery lawyer? Strategy in Robbery Cases
There are no hard and fast rules for winning these cases, but the basics remain important. Going through all of the evidence, both prosecution witness statements and police records and also forensic evidence in detail and analysing it is very important. There is also no substitute for putting as much time in with the client as possible.