Under South African law, the crime of robbery is defined as a common law crime – meaning that is not found in statutes or acts. Instead, it develops through the courts and is found in case law. At present, it is defined as the theft of property through the intentional use of violence or threats in order to subdue someone. Now as for armed robbery, the law becomes a little hazier. There is no clear definition of “armed robbery”, but instead the crime is drawn from the common law crime of robbery and the statutory regulation for aggravating circumstances as set out in the Criminal Procedure Act 52 of 1977. Therefore in legal terms, we refer to armed robbery as robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Of course, the question begs what constitutes armed robbery and as stated in the name, it is a robbery that is committed while armed (the above mentioned aggravating circumstances). Being armed simply means welding a weapon of some kind, most commonly a gun, but a knife or any other object intended to be harmful may constitute armed robbery. Of course, there is an interesting question of whether to charge someone with armed robbery or grievous bodily harm should they actually use the weapons, but that’s a job for legal experts to debate – even though the general consensus is that the crime of grievous bodily harm applies more. It should also be noted that accomplices to armed robbery will be charged with the same offence under the Criminal Procedure Act.
Interestingly a burglary and a robbery are not the same crime, as robbery, and armed robbery require the victim to be present for the crime, whereas, with burglary, the victim need not be present when their property is taken. The property should also be moveable property, therefore one can’t rob a house, but one can rob the contents of a house.
During an armed robbery trial in South Africa, the onus is on the state to prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – meaning that there needs to be concrete proof that all elements of the crime were present. The minimum sentence for armed robbery if found guilty during the trial is 15 years in prison.
If you are need of legal advice regarding the crime of armed robbery in South Africa, please reach out to us and we will refer your query to a qualified criminal attorney who will be able to assist with expert input.
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