Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?

Last updated on July 14, 2022

robber about to attack woman in parking area

What is Robbery? 

According to section 390 of the Penal Code, a robbery consists of either:

  1. Theft; or
  2. Extortion.

While robbery consists of either theft or extortion, it is more than that. Otherwise, a person should be charged with just theft, or just extortion, instead of robbery.

This article will explain:

How is Robbery Different From Theft? 

Theft becomes robbery when the offender voluntarily causes or attempts to cause:

  • Death,
  • Hurt,
  • Wrongful restraint,
  • Fear of instant death,
  • Fear of instant hurt, and/or
  • Fear of instant wrongful restraint,

in the course of committing the acts of theft, or taking or attempting to take one’s property away.

On the other hand, theft involves stealing without causing, or attempting to cause, any of the above-mentioned elements to the victim.

If the theft involved force or the threat of force, but neither were used for the purpose of carrying out the theft, then the offender may be found guilty of only theft and not robbery.

How is Robbery Different From Extortion?

Extortion becomes robbery if the offender has put a person, when committing robbery, in fear of:

  • Instant death;
  • Instant hurt; and/or
  • Instant wrongful restraint.

The offender also has to be in the presence of the person put in fear, forcing (or extorting) that person in fear to deliver up what they have been asked for.

In 2021, a Canadian man, David James Roach, was jailed for 5 years and sentenced to 6 strokes of the cane for robbing Standard Chartered Bank’s Holland Village branch on 7 July 2016. (His caning sentence was not carried out as Singapore had given Britain an assurance that Roach would not be caned if Britain assisted in extraditing Roach to Singapore.)

Roach entered the bank and handed a piece of paper to the woman at the bank counter that read: “This is a robbery. I have a gun in my bag.”

Roach proceeded to put his hand into his bag, putting the woman in fear for her life and causing her to believe that he was indeed in possession of a weapon. This led to her withdrawing the cash requested by Roach and handing it over to him.

In this case, Roach may have committed robbery by extortion as at that time, he was in the presence of the woman behind the bank counter from whom he was extorting money, and who was the person put in fear. He also put the woman at the bank counter in fear of instant death that induced her to deliver up the cash that she was being extorted for.

What are the Penalties for Committing Robbery? 

A person found guilty of robbery will be sentenced to a jail term of 2-10 years, along with caning of at least 6 strokes under section 392 of the Penal Code.

If the robbery had been committed between 7pm and 7am (i.e. robbery by night), the offender will be sentenced to a jail term of 3 to 14 years, along with caning of at least 12 strokes.

Can you be charged and sentenced even if your robbery attempt failed? 

Yes, as you can be charged with attempted robbery.

A person found guilty of attempting to commit robbery will be sentenced to a jail term of 2 to 7 years, along with caning of at least 6 strokes.

What are the penalties if you hurt someone while committing robbery? 

Any person found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt while committing or attempting to commit robbery, or being involved in such a robbery, will be punished with a jail term of 5 to 20 years, along with caning of at least 12 strokes.

What are the Penalties for Committing Armed Robbery?

Armed robbery involves the possession or use of any deadly weapon, or causing grievous hurt or attempting to cause grievous hurt or death to any person, while committing the robbery.

Offenders who are guilty of committing armed robbery will be punished with caning of at least 12 strokes in addition to any other punishment he may be liable for.

For example, if a person had been armed when committing the robbery at 10am, and hurt someone in the midst of the robbery, he/she may face the collective punishments for:

  • Committing robbery, which results in a jail term of 2 to 10 years and at least 6 strokes of the cane (as the robbery had not been committed between 7pm and 7am);
  • Causing hurt to any person in the committing robbery, which results in a jail term of 5 to 20 years and at least 12 strokes of the cane; and for
  • Armed robbery, which results in at least 12 strokes of the cane.

This would result in the offender facing a minimum jail term of 5 years and at least 12 strokes of the cane (which is higher than the minimum 2-year jail term and 6 strokes of the cane for just robbery alone).

What are the Penalties for Committing Gang-Robbery?

A gang-robbery takes place when at least 5 people come together to commit or assist in the commitment of the robbery.

If the group of people who committed or assisted in committing robbery had consisted of only 2, 3 or 4 people, then they may be charged only for robbery instead of gang-robbery.

Offenders found guilty of committing gang-robbery will be sentenced with a jail term of 5 to 20 years, along with caning of at least 12 strokes.

Are Robbery and Gang-robbery Arrestable Offences?

Both robbery and gang-robbery are arrestable offences. An arrestable offence is one where the police can arrest a suspect without a warrant.

For example, if a person is suspected to have threatened to kill the victim in the process of stealing their property, then they might have committed robbery and can be arrested without a warrant.

Once the suspect has been arrested, it is up to the police or the court to decide whether to release them on bail.

How Will Offenders be Sentenced for Committing Robbery/Gang-Robbery in Singapore?

The following are sentencing considerations that the court can consider when deciding on the sentence for a person who has committed either robbery or gang-robbery:

1. Factors with regard to the offence of robbery/armed robbery committed, such as the:

  • Details of the offence, e.g. the nature of the offence, when and where the offence happened, was the offender armed, were there any witnesses
  • Effect of the offence, e.g. the extent to which the offence had impacted the victim

2. Factors with regard to the offender:

  • Is the offender remorseful for his actions? E.g. as shown by the offender pleading guilty at the first opportunity
  • Does the offender have a criminal record, or has he committed past similar offences?
  • Did the offender offer to make restitution or compensation to the victim of his own accord? E.g. paying of the victim’s medical bills where hurt had been caused to him/her during the robbery/gang-robbery
  • Are there any factors relating to the offender that may reduce his responsibility for the offence? E.g. age, incapacitation, disability, psychiatric disorder

3. (For gang-robbery) Sentences received by other offenders involved in the same offence.

  • The court will consider the sentence received by any other offenders involved in the same case, but it may not always impose identical sentences.
  • The court will consider whether there is a difference in liability based on factors such as:
    • Each offender’s role during the gang-robbery
    • Whether each individual had pleaded guilty or disputed the charge
    • Factors with regard to the offender (as mentioned above)

4. Sentences and judgments concluded from similar past cases

  • The court will take judgments from similar past cases of robbery or gang-robbery as a guide.
  • The court will consider sentences that were concluded in past cases to ensure consistency. However, it will not simply impose an identical sentence as per previous cases. It will also consider the differences in facts between the cases to decide if and how the sentence in the current case should be different.

Aggravating and mitigating factors specific to robbery

Aggravating factors may increase a sentence while mitigating factors may reduce the sentence.

Robbery is aggravated or considered more serious when committed by a gang, an armed person, or between 7pm and 7am. For example, if a dangerous weapon, such as a knife, is used to hurt or cause fear to the victim, or where the robbery is committed against a helpless person at night.

These offences generally carry heavier mandatory minimum sentences, and the sentence meted out to the offender may be more severe depending on the extent of their acts.

On the other hand, mitigating factors include:

  • Where the offender is:
    • Of a young age; and/or
    • A first-time offender
  • Where there is evidence of genuine remorse or guilt on the offender’s part
    • The offender’s capability of rehabilitation
  • Plea of guilt
    • Whether the offender had pleaded guilty, and how soon the offender had done so
  • Voluntary restitution
    • The making of compensation is of decisive significance only when it had been made voluntarily. Only then would it be a display of true moral conscience on the offender’s part

Will Robbery and Gang-Robbery Result in a Criminal Record? 

If you are convicted of either robbery or gang-robbery, you will have a criminal record. Given the seriousness of these offences and potential punishments for them, it is unlikely that the criminal record can become spent (i.e. wiped clean) after a certain period of time.

Next Steps

If you have been a victim of robbery/gang-robbery

File a report with the police immediately. Try to provide the police with important details of the robbery that include:

  • The robber’s appearance
  • The time of the robbery
  • What the robber took from you
  • Whether the robber had used force or hurt you
  • Whether the robber had been in possession of a weapon at the time of the robbery

If you have insurance, you can also contact your insurance company and check if your insurance policy covers theft and robbery incidents.

If you have been charged with robbery/gang-robbery

If you are considering representing yourself for your case, you can. However, doing so runs several risks that you may not desire.

For example, if you are unfamiliar with the defences available to you, or the mitigating factors that can help reduce your sentence, you might not be able to mount the best possible defence for your case. This can in turn lead to you being sentenced unfairly.

Contacting a lawyer may therefore be a better option for you as they aid you in fighting your case appropriately. For example, as practitioners with legal knowledge, lawyers can advise you on how to proceed with your case.

Your lawyer can also help with your application for bail. Further, the lawyer can write representations for you to the prosecution in order to reduce your charges or have the charges dropped altogether.

However, if the Prosecution wishes to press charges, your lawyer can then advise you on whether it is in your interests to claim trial or plead guilty.

Hence if you have been accused of committing robbery, you may want to discuss your options with a criminal lawyer and get advice on how to proceed with your case.

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