Robbery and the Principle of Fair Labelling

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Robbery is a somewhat unusual offence in the sense that it combines two distinct wrongs: an offence against property and an offence against the person. It is also a particularly broad crime since it does not distinguish between different levels of force which might be used against the person. Consequently, the defendant who uses a slight push in order to steal a bag, commits the same offence as a masked gang who enters a bank whilst in possession of firearms, making off with substantial amounts of cash in the process. As such, the current definition of robbery conflicts with the principle of fair labelling which seeks to ensure that crimes are defined to reflect their wrongfulness and severity. This article explores options to reform robbery in order to bring it in line with the principle of fair labelling. Ultimately, it argues that the scope of the offence should be narrowed by incorporating a minimum-force threshold so that offences involving low levels of force cease to be regarded as robberies and are instead treated as thefts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Criminal Law
Issue number3
Early online date4 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019

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  • Robbery
  • fair labelling
  • theft
  • proportionality
  • force


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