'The law on robbery has been confusing for the courts to apply, and such difficulties require Parliament to intervene and update the law on this subject.' Discuss.
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20/4/05 'The law on robbery has been confusing for the courts to apply, and such difficulties require Parliament to intervene and update the law on this subject.' Discuss. The law on robbery is contained in the Theft Act 1968; an act in which the government attempted to clarify the law on theft and related offences. Robbery as an offence can be seen as an aggravated theft - it is necessary that the elements of theft be satisfied before the prosecution can attempt to achieve a successful conviction for robbery. While the law surrounding the offence of Theft has been subject to deliberation and criticism since the passing of the act, the law on robbery has proved equally difficult to apply. It is because of this that many legal commentators and reform groups have proclaimed the need for updated legislation on the subject. S8(2) Theft Act 1968 provides that the maximum sentence for a conviction of Theft is life imprisonment, making it the most serious of the theft offences. The government however has taken an increasingly strict attitude towards the offence, and s2 Crime (Sentences)
These elements will not be satisfied, if the defendant uses force, and then goes on to steal. But in the interests of public liberty and safety, the courts have been prepared to take a more pragmatic approach to this definition. In the case of Hale , the defendants argued that although they had forced their way into the victim's house and stolen jewelry, they only had to restrain her and tie her up, as they left the house. They argued therefore that the theft was over when the theft took place. To avoid the defendants escaping a conviction, the courts decided that 'the act of appropriation does not suddenly cease. It is a continuous act and it is a matter for the jury to decide whether or not the act of appropriation has finished'. While some may see this as a sensible move in order to secure the convictions of violent offenders, others may criticise the courts decision to depart from the directions given in the act, and therefore to bypass Parliament's intentions. When devising this section of the law, The Criminal Law Revision Committee made it clear that there had to be more than a mere snatching of property from an unresisting owner because it could be held to be robbery.
The Divisional Court came to the decision that the 'appropriation' necessary to satisfy the theft element was present, as appropriation was defined as an 'assumption of rights of the true owner', which made it clear that although the defendants had not taken the handbag, they had still assumed the rights of the owner and successfully appropriated it. The Divisional Court also had no doubts that the required force was present and therefore stated that 'there cannot possibly be, save for the instance where a handbag is carried away from the scene... a clearer instance of robbery' and the convictions were successful. In conclusion the courts do seem to face a problem when attempting to maintain a fair approach towards robbery. While legislation like the Crime (Sentences) Act evidently shows that Parliament wish to take a very strict approach towards this offence, this also makes the job of the courts considerably more difficult. While few would disagree that the circumstances described in cases like Clouden and Dawson amount to robbery, such offences do not appear to be the most serious robbery cases. It therefore seems that the current state of the law on robbery restricts the courts, from providing fair punishments.
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