This legal essay examines the crimes of assault, robbery and one’s liability in being art and part with such crimes as well as whether one’s actions can be likened to a lesser or greater charge. When evaluating what charge an accused should be given one must always remember that the ultimate objectives of the modern legal system are for the law to be certain, proportionate and to a certain extent fair.
Firstly, we must establish why George is guilty of both assault and robbery as opposed to merely assault or robbery. Robbery is defined under Scots criminal law as ‘theft accomplished by violence or the threat of violence’ (1). In order to establish whether George is guilty of robbery we must evaluate the mens rea and actus reus of robbery, which is the same as theft but with the added element of violence. Here the mens rea is the intention to deprive someone of their property permanently (2), though recent cases show it does not have to be on a permanent basis as established by the Black v Carmichael case. The actus reus (3) is the appropriation of property belonging to someone else without their consent (2). Here George has met the necessary conditions for the mens rea for theft as he has wrongfully taken the crisps with the intention of depriving the shopkeeper of the five packets. He also satisfies the actus reus of theft (2) as he appropriates the shopkeeper’s property without his consent. He then punches the shopkeeper and this element of actual violence transforms the theft into robbery. He has unquestionably committed a theft accomplished by violence. The Cromar v HM Adv case establishes that a minimal degree of violence is required for a theft to be considered a robbery making it likely that George would be convicted of robbery.
George can also be found guilty of committing assault as he satisfies the mens rea and actus reus for this crime. Assault is legally defined as “a deliberate attack upon the person of another which may be aggravated” (3). In the case of assault, ‘attack’ is defined by institutional writer, David Hume, as being real injuries by which “assault, invasion, beating and bruising, blooding and wounding, stabbing, mutilation, demembration and some others” (3) as defined by modern Scots law. Under Scots criminal law, the actus reus of assault is the direct infliction of violence which is clearly visible in George’s actions towards the shop clerk who he punches without provocation as the shop clerk did not threaten him. The grounds for provocation are assault, or the threat of assault, as well as sexual infidelity. Therefore, provocation cannot be used as a defense as George willingly committed violence. The mens rea of assault is evil intent, this could arguably be seen in George’s crime as he has conducted his attack intentionally without being reckless, negligent or under the influence. Ascertaining whether George has evil intent (4) is a tricky matter. It can be argued that George does in fact have evil intent as he knew prior to entering the shop that he could not afford the crisps and a reasonable individual would not attempt to use loyalty to the shop as payment.
Furthermore, a reasonable individual would not be likely to commit a violent attack if they were unable to afford the goods they were attempting to buy, but would, however, purchase as much as they could afford and leave the shop without any issues. The case of Kay v Allan establishes that the mere intention to hurt someone else can result in a conviction for assault. Under this reasoning, George is guilty of assault as he directly committed a violent attack. This is further illustrated by the case of Smart v HM Adv which tells us that the intention to cause people unlawful harm will result in the accused being liable of assault. For all these reasons it can be said that George is in fact guilty of assault. Although he has irrevocably committed both robbery and assault unfortunately for George, because he used actual violence, he has been charged with assault and robbery instead of merely robbery or assault. This would have increasingly serious implications for George. He has been charged with assault and robbery and this is only one crime.
We must examine the facts of the case and evaluate whether there is a more proportionate charge for George than assault and robbery. On one hand, it can be argued that George should not be charged with the more serious crime of assault and robbery. This is because he has already fulfilled the requirements for robbery as he has committed a theft in a violent manner by punching the shopkeeper. In this instance, George merely threw a single punch after which he immediately fled the scene. His actions only constitute as a relatively minor assault. If he had kicked the clerk whilst he was down and displayed excessively violent behavior, then perhaps it would be justified to charge him with assault and robbery, but this was just a single punch. Additionally, George left what money he had before fleeing the scene. It would thus not be just or reasonable to charge George with a much heavier sentence (assault and robbery) if he did not cause the shopkeeper any serious injuries (which we can assume this as there is not enough information provided regarding the shopkeeper’s injuries). Given that the main objective of the law is to be certain and unambiguous it would stand to reason that George should be charged with robbery because this is what he committed. If the courts were to charge him with assault and robbery, then a large number or robbery cases would be transformed into assault and robbery cases and this would not only be unfair but would lead to great legal uncertainty and open the floodgate of litigation.
On the other hand, however, it could be argued that George has committed both an assault and robbery. As explained above, George has successfully met the mens rea and actus reus for both crimes. The fact that he left his money after committing the crime does not change the reality of his criminal liability for his actions. His motive may have been to merely assume supplies for his party, however, motive is irrelevant in criminal liability, as is established in Lord Advocates Reference case. This case also saw the accused convicted even though he didn’t carry out any physical violence. George has physically attacked the shopkeeper, and this could be enough to charge him with robbery and assault.