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Robbery and Blackmail 

Robbery and Blackmail
Chapter:
Robbery and Blackmail
Author(s):

Paul Connor

DOI:
10.1093/law/9780198806387.003.0017
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Subscriber: null; date: 15 August 2018

17.1 Introduction

Robbery and blackmail are closely related offences. As you work through this section you will see that there are distinct similarities between the two offences and it is important that you are able to identify which offence you are dealing with.

17.2 Aim

The aim of this section is for you to be able to identify when offences of robbery and blackmail may have been committed.

17.3 Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:

  1. 1. Define the offence of robbery contrary to s. 8 of the Theft Act 1968.

  2. 2. Explain the law with regard to the use of force in a robbery offence.

  3. 3. Identify who can be the subject of force in a robbery offence.

  4. 4. Identify when a robbery can be committed.

  5. 5. Define the offence of blackmail contrary to s. 21 of the Theft Act 1968.

  6. 6. Explain the meaning of the term ‘gain and loss’.

  7. 7. Distinguish between the offence of robbery and the offence of blackmail.

  8. 8. Apply your knowledge to multiple-choice questions.

17.4 Robbery

As with so many other offences, you must know the definition of robbery before you move on to examine the offence in detail.

17.4.1 Exercise—Define the Offence of Robbery

What is the full definition of the offence of robbery contrary to s. 8 of the Theft Act 1968?

17.4.2 Steals

If you have followed the Workbook in content order you will have completed the ‘Theft’ section at this stage. If you have not, then you should complete ‘Theft’ before you go any further. This is because the word ‘steal’ in the definition of robbery means ‘theft’ and therefore if there is no theft then there can be no robbery.

As a consequence, if you do not understand theft then you cannot understand robbery. When you are considering whether there has been a robbery or not, you must first ask, ‘Was there a theft?’ You must consider every section of the theft definition when you ask that question.

17.4.3 Exercise—Think Theft!

Answer the following scenarios and give a short reason for your answer. Remember to think theft!

  1. 1. BARKER believes his employer owes him £20 for petrol expenses. BARKER’s employer refuses to give him the money so BARKER puts a knife to his employer’s throat and demands the money. The employer hands over £20. BARKER honestly believes he has a right in law to the money and the demand is a proper way of reinforcing it.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. SCOTT has wired his electricity supply to his neighbour’s house. His neighbour discovers this and disconnects the wiring. SCOTT goes to his neighbour’s house and once inside he puts a gun to his neighbour’s head and tells him he will be shot if the electricity supply is not reconnected immediately. The neighbour reconnects the electricity supply.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. NORTH is driving his car but is stationary at a set of traffic lights. HUGHES has been to a nightclub and needs to get home, but has no money for a taxi so he opens the driver’s door of NORTH’s car and tells NORTH to hand over the car or he will be stabbed. Fearing for his safety, NORTH jumps out of the car. HUGHES drives five miles to his home and abandons NORTH’s car (as he only wanted to use the car for a short time as transport to his home).

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

17.4.4 Exercise—Immediately Before or at the Time of Doing So

Think about this term and ask whether the following scenarios would fit it.

  1. 1. LIMM approaches DOWD in a street and says, ‘I’ve been following you and I know where you live. Give me your watch or I’ll be waiting for you outside your house to beat you up when you get home.’

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

  2. 2. BURNS is in a shop and sees a cashier place a bag of coins near her till. BURNS grabs the bag of coins and runs out of the shop. The cashier chases BURNS into the street and shouts for help. PC HULL is near to the shop and tries to stop BURNS who punches PC HULL in the face.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

17.4.5 Exercise—In Order to Do So

Consider this term when you examine the following scenario.

  1. 1. MASON is drinking at a pub with his girlfriend. FIRTH approaches MASON’s girlfriend and asks her what she is doing hanging around with a loser like MASON. MASON punches FIRTH in the face and FIRTH falls to the floor. MASON kicks FIRTH a number of times while he is on the floor and FIRTH’s wallet falls out of his jacket. MASON decides to steal the wallet.

  2. 2. KING is a pickpocket. On a busy train he steals a wallet from inside PALIN’s jacket. As KING is stealing the wallet he accidentally catches PALIN on the chin with the wallet.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

  3. 3. BREWIN sees ELLIOT steal £50 from a till of a pub. ELLIOT approaches BREWIN and says, ‘If you tell anyone about what you just saw, I’ll beat you to a pulp.’

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

17.4.6 Exercise—He Uses Force on Any Person

Examine the following statements and decide whether they are true or false.

  1. 1. RHONE was walking along a street holding a sports bag. WORLEY ran up behind him and pulled the bag from his hand using considerable force on the bag and dragging RHONE’s hand downwards in the process. WORLEY ran off. This is a robbery.

    • True / False

  2. 2. When force is used or threatened it must be towards the person from whom the theft is committed.

    • True / False

  3. 3. WRIGHT is working behind the counter of a jeweller’s shop. LIGHTFOOT walks into the shop and stands several feet away from WRIGHT, next to an expensive cut glass decanter. LIGHTFOOT shouts over to WRIGHT and says, ‘Give me £100 or I’ll smash the decanter. This is a robbery.’

17.4.7 Exercise—Puts or Seeks to Put Any Person in Fear of Being Then and There Subjected to Force

Consider this term and decide whether there has been a robbery in the following scenarios, giving a short reason for your answer.

  1. 1. TELFER is walking along a street having just left a karate class. TELFER is a fitness instructor and is highly qualified in martial arts. KOLADE approaches TELFER and points a knife at his chest, demanding his wallet. TELFER is not frightened at all and believes he could easily disarm KOLADE, but hands his wallet over to KOLADE as it has nothing of value in it.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. JOYNER is in a pub when FIDDICK approaches her. FIDDICK says, ‘My friend is behind you with a knife. Don’t turn around or you’ll be stabbed. Just hand over your bag and everything will be alright.’ JOYNER believes the threat and hands her bag to FIDDICK. FIDDICK was lying to JOYNER, as there was no ‘friend’ standing behind her.

    • Is this a robbery?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. Does it matter what TELFER or JOYNER think or believe?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

17.5 Blackmail

As you work through this section dealing with blackmail you may well see where the connections to the offence of robbery exist. For the moment we will concentrate on the offence of blackmail alone.

Complete Exercises 17.5.1, 17.5.2 and 17.5.3, before referring to the joint explanation which follows.

17.5.1 Exercise—Blackmail?

Begin this part of the section by writing down what you know about the offence of blackmail.

____________________________________________________________________________________

17.5.2 Exercise—Blackmail True or False?

Using the information you have written down, consider the following statements and decide whether they are true or false.

  1. 1. The offence of blackmail is all about the person making the demand actually gaining something; it has nothing to do with loss.

    • True / False

  2. 2. An offence of blackmail can only be committed when the defendant makes a demand for his own benefit.

    • True / False

17.5.3 Exercise—Blackmail Scenarios

Using the information in the first exercise and your answers to the true/false statements, examine the following scenarios and state whether there has been an offence of blackmail or not. Give a short reason for your answer.

  1. 1. MUTCH is playing a gaming machine in a licensed club. He wins the jackpot of £250 that is still stored within the machine and has not yet been dispensed to him. BULL is watching this and walks up to MUTCH and tells him to walk away from the machine and not to collect the money. BULL tells MUTCH that if he does not agree then he will tell MUTCH’s wife that he is having an affair with the barmaid.

    • MUTCH is aware that BULL knows of his illicit affair and, in fear of his wife finding out, he walks away. BULL collects the winnings.

    • Is an offence of blackmail committed?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. DIXON buys a £1,000 television from an electrical store owned by BUTLER. DIXON agrees to pay a monthly sum to settle the debt. There is no written agreement and there are no interest charges. DIXON falls behind with his payments and BUTLER visits him at his home. BUTLER tells DIXON that unless he pays a substantial part of the money owed he will be barred from his shop, and he will take the matter to a small claims court and recover the money through bailiffs. BUTLER believes this is a reasonable demand in the circumstances and his threat is warranted.

    • Is an offence of blackmail committed?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

17.5.4 Exercise—Gain and Loss

Section 34(2) of the Theft Act 1968 defines ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ for the purposes of blackmail.

Examine the following scenarios and decide whether there has been a ‘gain’ or ‘loss’ for the purposes of blackmail.

  1. 1. MILLS approaches NEAL and tells her that if she does not have sexual intercourse with him he will tell her husband that the two of them have been having an affair. This is not true, but NEAL is frightened of her husband and decides to have sexual intercourse with MILLS.

    • Gain?

    • Yes / No

    • Loss?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. MACDONALD approaches JUKKA and tells her that unless she allows him to use her car for a day he will tell her employer she used to be a prostitute and get her fired.

    • Gain?

    • Yes / No

    • Loss?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. HAYWOOD has borrowed a computer from DRAYCOTT. DRAYCOTT asks for the computer to be returned but, when asked, HAYWOOD tells DRAYCOTT that unless he lets him keep the computer he will spread rumours that DRAYCOTT is a paedophile. DRAYCOTT does not want his reputation to be damaged and allows HAYWOOD to keep the computer.

    • Gain?

    • Yes / No

    • Loss?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

17.5.5 Exercise—Robbery, Blackmail or Both?

Go back to the beginning of the robbery part of this section and read every robbery scenario exercise, beginning at Exercise 17.4.2, that begins with a capitalised name. Some of those scenarios will constitute offences of robbery only, some will be blackmail only, some will be both robbery and blackmail and others will be neither. Compile a list of those surnames under the appropriate heading in the following table.

Robbery

Blackmail

Robbery and Blackmail

Neither

Robbery

Blackmail

Robbery and Blackmail

Neither

WORLEY

SCOTT

FIDDICK

BARKER

KOLADE

HUGHES

BURNS

LIMM

MASON

ELLIOT

KING

LIGHTFOOT

17.6 Conclusion

Understanding the similarities and differences between robbery and blackmail is an important part of your study and revision and can only be accomplished by having a sound knowledge of both offences. Now that you have finished this section you should appreciate that blackmail is committed more often than you think. This is because an offence of robbery may also be an offence of blackmail, i.e. a robbery will often involve a demand with menaces. That said, it is far more likely that you would charge an offender with robbery, as not only may this be a more appropriate charge but also the offence carries a life imprisonment sentence as opposed to 14 years for blackmail.

17.7 Recall Questions

Try and answer the following questions.

  • What is the definition of robbery?

  • What is the definition of blackmail?

  • What is the defence to blackmail?

  • Who can be subjected to force in a robbery?

  • Can an accomplice in a robbery be subjected to force?

  • Can you explain the meaning of the terms ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ in blackmail?

  • What is the difference between the offences of robbery and blackmail?

17.8 Multiple-Choice Questions

Answers to these questions can be found in the ‘Answers Section’ at the end of the book. All explanations also include a reference back to the Investigators’ Manual 2018.

1. FISHER is expecting a parcel through the post. He is driving along the street where he lives when he sees the postman entering the street. FISHER stops his car, gets out and approaches the postman. FISHER asks the postman if there is a parcel for him and gives his name and address. The postman checks in his van, picks up a parcel addressed to FISHER at his address and says that there is. FISHER asks for it and the postman refuses, saying that he has to deliver it to the address stated upon it. Honestly believing he has a right in law to the parcel, FISHER demands the parcel and threatens to assault the postman, who again refuses to hand it over. FISHER then steps forward and punches the postman who drops the parcel to the pavement. FISHER picks the parcel up and walks to his car.

At what stage, if at all, does FISHER commit the offence of robbery?

  1. A When he demands the parcel and threatens to assault the postman.

  2. B When he punches the postman who drops the parcel to the pavement.

  3. C When FISHER picks the parcel up and walks to his car.

  4. D FISHER does not commit the offence in these circumstances.

Answer _____________________________

2. LEWIN approaches RIHAN who is sitting on a bench in a park. LEWIN says, ‘Give me your wallet or I’ll follow you to your house and beat you up’. RIHAN does not respond at all. LEWIN then says, ‘Do you think I’m joking? Hand over your wallet or I’ll beat you up right now!’ RIHAN still does not respond. LEWIN produces a knife and waves it in front of RIHAN saying, ‘Last chance before you get stabbed!’ RIHAN does not respond. This is because RIHAN is deaf and blind and has not heard or seen any of LEWIN’s threats.

When, if at all, does LEWIN commit an offence of attempted robbery?

  1. A When he threatens to follow RIHAN home and beat him up.

  2. B When he threatens to beat RIHAN up ‘right now’.

  3. C When he produces the knife and threatens to stab RIHAN.

  4. D The offence is not committed in these circumstances.

Answer _____________________________

3. CHUNG and O’COUGHLAN work in the same office and are both up for promotion. There is only one position available and CHUNG is determined to get it. CHUNG writes a letter to O’COUGHLAN stating that unless O’COUGHLAN pulls out of the promotion race, he will burn down O’COUGHLAN’s house. CHUNG puts the letter into a postbox near his house but the letter gets lost in the post and O’COUGHLAN never sees it.

Is this an offence of blackmail (contrary to s. 21 of the Theft Act 1968)?

  1. A No, because it is not possible to commit blackmail by sending the demand in the form of a letter.

  2. B Yes, but the permission of the DPP would be required to prosecute CHUNG.

  3. C No, because O’COUGHLAN never actually received the letter and does not know about CHUNG’s demand.

  4. D Yes, and CHUNG could be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment for committing the offence.

Answer _____________________________