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Date Updated: January 2012

Title: Theft

Offence: Robbery

Legislation: S8 Theft Act 1968

Commencement Date:

Mode of Trial: Indictable only

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: Life
Serious specified offence - CJA 2003

S15A CJA 2003 applies - where, at some time during the commission of the offence, the offender had in his possession a firearm or an imitation firearm.

Offences committed before 4/4/2005 note:

  • S109 PCC(S)A 2000 Mandatory life sentence if previous conviction for a "serious offence"
  • S80(2) PCC(S)A 2000 Longer then commensurate sentence
  • S85(2)b PCC(S)A 2000 Extended sentence

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

  • Professional hallmarks.
  • More than one offender or gang.
  • Detailed reconnaissance and planning.
  • Carrying firearm or ammonia.
  • Firearm real.
  • Disguise / balaclavas worn.
  • Substantial Gain - intended or obtained.
  • Firearm discharged or ammonia used.
  • Injury caused to victim.

Relevant Sentencing Council Guidelines

Guideline applies to offenders convicted after 1st August 2006. It identifies following types of robbery:

  1. Street robbery or "mugging";
  2. Robberies of small businesses;
  3. Less sophisticated commercial robberies;
  4. Violent personal robberies in the home;
  5. Professionally planned commercial robberies.

The Guideline does not apply to categories 4 and 5. Relevant cases set out below.

Regarding categories 1 to 3, the following guidelines apply:

Sentencing Guidelines Council

Street Robberies / Robberies of small businesses / Less sophisticated commercial robberies.

Type/nature of activity: The offence includes the threat or use of minimal force and removal of property.

Starting point Adult: 12 months 
Range Adult: Up to 3 years 

Starting point Youth: Community Order 
Range Youth: Community Order - 12 months DTO

Type/nature of activity: A weapon is produced and used to threaten, and/or force is used which results in injury to the victim.

Starting point Adult: 4 years 
Range Adult: 2 - 7 years 

Starting point Youth: 3 years detention 
Range Youth: 1 - 6 years detention

Type/nature of activity: The victim is caused serious physical injury by the use of significant force and/or use of a weapon.

Starting point Adult: 8 years 
Range Adult: 7 - 12 years 

Starting point Youth: 7 years detention 
Range Youth: 6 - 10 years detention

Additional aggravating factors.

  • More than one offender involved.
  • Being the ringleader of a group of offenders
  • Restraint, detention or additional degradation
  • Offence was pre-planned
  • Wearing a disguise.
  • Offence committed at night.
  • Vulnerable victim targeted.
  • Targeting of large sums of money or valuable goods
  • Possession of a weapon that was not used.

Additional mitigating factors.

  • Unplanned / opportunistic.
  • Peripheral involvement.
  • Voluntary return of property taken of the victim.
  • Clear evidence of remorse.
  • Ready co-operation with the police.

The 'starting points' for youths are based upon a first-time offender aged 17 years old who pleaded not guilty. For younger offenders, sentencers should consider whether a lower starting point is justified in recognition of the offender's age or immaturity.

Relevant sentencing guidelines (for category 4 and 5 )

Armed/Bank Robberies:

R v Turner [1975] 61 Cr.App.R. 67
Armed robberies of Post Office vans are grave crimes but not wholly abnormal. The sentence should be considered in the context of those imposed with those for murder. Starting point for a single armed robbery where no serious injury caused was 15 years and the maximum where more than one robbery 18 years.

R v Daly [1981] 3 Cr.App.R.(S.) 340
Bank robberies starting point 15 years.

R v Adams and Harding [2000] 2 Cr.App.R.(S) 274
Turner guidelines need to be revised upwards. 25 years may be appropriate where convicted of more than one offence and 15 years may be appropriate where convicted of one offence and previous convictions for armed robbery.

R v Eubank [2002] 1 Cr.App.R. 11
The carrying of a firearm should be the subject of a separate count (because of S109 mandatory sentence).


R v Snowden The Times November 11 2002.
Where high value cars are involved the offence can equate to bank robbery. A defendant convicted of several such offences aggravated by the use of additional violence can expect 10 years.

Above case applied in  R-v-Gbedje and Owoola [2007] 2 Cr.App.R (S) 89, CA and R v Khan and Khan [2007] 2 Cr. App.R.(S.) 95 CA.

Robbery in the course of burglary:

R v O'Driscoll (1986) 8 Cr.App.R.(S.) 121
"where thugs, ... select as their victims old folk and attack them in their own homes and then torture them ... in order to try to make them hand over their valuables in this savage fashion, then this sort of sentence [15 years], will be the sort of sentence that they can expect."

AG's References Nos. 32 and 33 of 1995 ( R. v. Pegg and Martin)  [1996] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 346
"Where an elderly victim, living alone, is violently attacked by intruders within the home and is injured the likely sentence will be in double figures."

AG Ref Nos 38, 39 & 40 OF 2007 [2007] EWCA Crim 1692
The defendant's pleaded guilty to robbery, a third offender pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Four men, armed with an iron bar and a rolling pin, were let in to the house of a 67 year old man and his male partner. The victims were threatened and robbed. The victim was punched by the third offender and died. Held the SAC guidelines on street robbery do not apply to robberies in the home. Had the robbery taken place in the street a sentence of five and a half years would have been appropriate an additional two years, or possibly a little more, would be appropriate for a robbery of this kind to reflect the fact that it was committed in someone's home, entry having been gained, as it was in this case, by subterfuge as opposed to force. 2 and a half years increased to 5 years.

See also AG Ref (no 124 of 2008) (R -v- Doran) [2009] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 29, the CA declined to adopt this arithmetical approach, but confirmed that the guideline did not intend robberies in the home to be treated in the same way as street robberies, since invasion of person's home significant factor. Appropriate level for robbery in home targeting elderly householders without weapons or significant violence in general range of 5-6 years after a trial. 

Relevant Sentencing Case Law (pre SCG)

Street Robberies:

R v O'Brien (1984) 6 Cr.App.R.(S) 274
Mugging of elderly persons in streets.
Young men who committed this sort of offence against elderly women going about their business in the streets of any city should expect to receive a custodial sentence of around 5 years.

R v Edwards and Larter The Times, 3 February 1987
Courts should impose long custodial sentences on young muggers of women at night in urban areas, even where no serious injury was caused.

AG's Ref 4 and 7 of 2002 (Lobban and Sawyers) [2002] 2 Cr.App.R.(S) 77
The Court consolidated the principles established by reported decisions for robbery involving theft of mobile phones and small amounts of money, which frequently involved elderly or young victims. Custodial sentences would be the only option available to courts unless there are exceptional circumstances, irrespective of the age of the offender and of whether the offender had previous convictions, though both factors are relevant to the length of sentence.
An aggravating factor would be if a team of offenders was involved.


The following ranges of sentences were established from existing authorities.

  • Where a weapon was involved, a sentence of 18 months' to 5 years' imprisonment is appropriate.
  • Where no weapon was involved, a sentence of 18 months' to 3 years' imprisonment is appropriate.

The upper sentencing limits may not be appropriate if:

  • the offender had a number of previous convictions
  • there was a substantial degree of violence
  • a particularly large number of offences were committed

Steaming Robberies

R v Allen [2005] EWCA Crim 667
AG's ref. No.s 4 and 7 of 2002 (Lobban and Sawyers) [2002] (3 years maximum for street robberies); Elvy [2003] (steaming on Underground 18m - 5y with 3y max where no weapon involved) are not to be taken as a yardstick for group robberies such as these, "steaming" cases, involving an intimidating gang of young people and involving victims who are vulnerable by reason of being trapped within a train or other public transport or similar confined spaces. Convicted after a retrial of 3 steaming robberies on a train - five years reduced to 4years.

Small Shops:

AG's Ref No.2 of 1989 (Major) (1989) 11 Cr.App.R.(S) 481
In cases where the robbery occurs in smaller shops (such as a betting shop) which don't have the sophisticated protection that banks and building societies may have, the court must offer its protection and impose a deterrent custodial sentence. The appropriate starting point is 7 years' imprisonment

AG's Ref. No.7 of 1992 (Khan) (1993) 14 Cr.App.R.(S) 122
Small shops are often staffed by only one person who may be unable to defend him/herself. It is also unlikely there will be any sophisticated security, and it is a prime target for someone who wants to enrich himself quickly and successfully.
It is therefore appropriate to pass deterrent sentences in cases of robbery of small shops, small corner/grocer shops and to sub-Post Offices. Original sentence of 3 years quashed and replaced with 7 years' imprisonment, on a plea of guilty.

Mobile phones

AG's References Nos. 4 and 7 of 2002 (R. v. Lobban and Sawyers); R v Q [2002] 2 Cr.App.R. (S.) 77.
Deterrent sentences required for robberies of mobile phones; save in exceptional circumstances a custodial sentence should be imposed irrespective of age or previous character. 18 months to 3 years where no weapon is involved or 5 years where a weapon is involved [predates SAC guidelines].

Ancillary Orders:

  • Restitution
  • Compensation

Consider Also:

  • POCA
  • ASBO


  • Offence Archbold 21-84
  • Sentence Archbold 21-89
  • Thomas B6-2.3

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