What is the difference between robbery and theft from person?

Everyone has heard the following terms at some stage “Those robbing so and so’s” – Usually by an angry shopkeeper chasing some kids out of his shop.

“I was out last night and my house was robbed” or my favourite from the Daily Mail “Those Bankers that robbed us are all criminals. Now let’s throw them in jail”

Whilst all of the above are acts of dishonesty and reprehensible are any of these examples of Robbery? Let’s see.

Section 8 Theft Act 1968 stipulates that 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.

The first incident is probably a Theft from Shop, the second example is Burglary and the third is probably some level of Fraud but none, despite the descriptions to the contrary, would qualify as Robbery.

A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. (Section 1 Theft Act 1968)

A theft from person is therefore is the taking of something from someone without their consent with the intention of permanently depriving them of it. An example would be pickpocket who steals from you a wallet stealthily. A handbag snatch can also qualify – however it must be noted that there can be no threat or use of violence and any force used must be used towards the property and not the individual.

So in essence if you hear the term robbery being used again – make sure its being used correctly. Don’t feel the urge to correct the person using it incorrectly as they might be a little upset and might not take too kindly to your correct legal definition of Robbery.

Being accused of robbery or theft can be confusing and frightening. Burton Copeland has vast experience in representing client’s throughout Greater Manchester and beyond who have been accused of all manner of offences from pick pocketing or snatching to conspiracy to commit armed robberies of banks and cash in transit. Call or Contact us and be assured of expert legal advice from lawyers who care.


Bryan McMahon – Partner, Burton Copeland