R v Robinson – 1977

April 03, 2024
Micheal James

Jurisdiction / Tag(s):

Introduction to R v Robinson – 1977

Theft, a seemingly straightforward crime, takes a nuanced turn in R v Robinson (1977). This case explores the scenario where a defendant uses force to acquire property, but believes they have a legal right to do so. The central question revolves around the concept of “dishonesty,” a crucial element in determining whether an act constitutes theft under English law.


The events leading to the legal battle unfolded in a seemingly ordinary debt collection scenario. Mr. Robinson, the defendant, believed he was owed £7 by the wife of the alleged victim. Seeking to recover this debt, he approached the victim, the wife’s husband. However, the encounter took a dramatic turn when Mr. Robinson brandished a knife, escalating the situation. A struggle ensued, during which the victim dropped a £5 note. Mr. Robinson seized this opportunity, picking up the money and demanding the remaining £2 owed to him. While forceful, his actions were driven by the belief that he was simply collecting a legitimate debt. This belief in a legal right became the cornerstone of his defense against theft charges.


The crux of the legal battle in R v Robinson (1977) centered on the definition of theft under the Theft Act 1968. The critical question hinged on Mr. Robinson’s state of mind:

  • Did Mr. Robinson’s actions constitute theft under the Theft Act 1968, even though he believed he had a legal right to the money and only used force to recover a portion of the debt owed to him?


In a controversial decision, the Court of Appeal overturned Mr. Robinson’s robbery conviction. This decision deviated from the initial verdict, suggesting a more nuanced understanding of the concept of theft.

Ratio Decidendi (Reasoning of the Court)

The court’s reasoning focused on a meticulous examination of Section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968, which defines theft:

  • Dishonesty as a Key Element: The court emphasized that for an act to be classified as theft, it must involve dishonesty. Dishonesty, in this context, refers to an appropriation of property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it.
  • Belief in a Legal Right: The court found that Mr. Robinson, while employing force, held a genuine belief that he had a legal right to recover the debt owed to him. While his approach was undoubtedly forceful and potentially threatening, his intention was not to permanently deprive the victim of the money. He sought to collect what he believed was rightfully his, albeit through questionable methods.
  • Theft vs. Robbery: The court further clarified the distinction between theft and robbery. Robbery, a more serious offense, includes the use of force or the threat of force in addition to the act of theft. Since the court found Mr. Robinson’s actions lacked the element of dishonesty, his conviction for robbery could not stand.


R v Robinson (1977) holds significant weight in the realm of theft and robbery offenses. The case established the following legal principles:

  • Importance of Dishonesty: The case underscores the importance of “dishonesty” as a key element in establishing theft. If a defendant believes they have a legal right to the property, even if mistaken, their actions might not be considered theft under the Theft Act 1968. This highlights the subjective nature of the concept and the need to consider the defendant’s state of mind.
  • Distinction Between Theft and Robbery: The case clarifies the distinction between theft and robbery, emphasizing the additional element of force or threat of force in robbery charges. If a defendant acts under a genuine belief in a legal right to the property, their use of force might not elevate the offense to robbery.


R v Robinson (1977) stands as a landmark case, emphasizing the importance of proving dishonesty in theft cases. The case highlights the need to consider the defendant’s state of state of mind and their belief in a legal right to the property. While the decision sparked debate, it continues to influence legal discussions concerning the elements of theft and robbery, and the role of honest belief in determining criminal liability. The case serves as a reminder that the law considers not just the act itself, but also the underlying motivations and intentions behind it.

Why Choose Us:

Our law coursework writing services are sought after by students facing challenges in composing well-researched and meticulously crafted coursework. With our expertise in legal academia and writing proficiency, we ensure that students receive tailored solutions that showcase their understanding of legal concepts and principles, fostering academic success and confidence.

Cite This Work

Select a referencing style to export a reference for this article:

All Answers ltd, 'R v Robinson – 1977' (Mylawtutor.net, September 2012 ) <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977> accessed 23 April 2024
My, Law, Tutor. (September 2012 ). R v Robinson – 1977. Retrieved from https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977
"R v Robinson – 1977." MyLawTutor.net. 9 2012. All Answers Ltd. 04 2024 <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977>.
"R v Robinson – 1977." MyLawTutor. MyLawTutor.net, September 2012. Web. 23 April 2024. <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977>.
MyLawTutor. September 2012. R v Robinson – 1977. [online]. Available from: https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977 [Accessed 23 April 2024].
MyLawTutor. R v Robinson – 1977 [Internet]. September 2012. [Accessed 23 April 2024]; Available from: https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977.
<ref>{{cite web|last=Tutor |first=MyLaw |url=https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-robinson-1977 |title=R v Robinson – 1977 |publisher=MyLawTutor.net |date=September 2012 |accessdate=23 April 2024 |location=UK, USA}}</ref>

Related Cases

Dick Bentley v Harold Smith

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to Dick Bentley v Harold Smith The world of contracts can be a complex one, especially when it comes to the interpretation of statements made during negotiations. Dick Bentley Productions Ltd v Harold Smith (Motors) Ltd [1965] stands as a significant case in English contract law, offering valuable insights into the distinction between a […]

Performance Cars v Abraham

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to Performance Cars v Abraham Performance Cars Ltd v Abraham (1962) stands as a landmark case in English tort law, specifically regarding the concept of causation in negligence claims. This case study delves into the factual background, the legal issue at stake, the court’s decision and reasoning, and the lasting impact of the case […]

R v Hennessy – 1989

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to R v Hennessy – 1989 The criminal justice system grapples with complex issues when a defendant’s actions seem involuntary due to a medical condition. R v Hennessy (1989) stands as a significant case in English law, delving into the boundaries of the defense of automatism in the context of diabetic hypoglycemia. This case […]

go to top