Theft, Burglary, and Robbery – Are They All the Same?

  • Posted on
Theft, Burglary, and Robbery – Are They All the Same?

The terms "theft," "burglary," and "robbery" are sometimes used interchangeably in news reporting regarding crimes involving the theft of money or property. But there are definite distinctions between these offences.



Theft is defined as taking someone else's property without using physical force.

A person commits the offence of theft when they dishonestly take something that belongs to someone else with the purpose to permanently depriving them of it. This could refer to someone stealing from a shop, stealing a bike or vehicle, an employee stealing from  their place of employment, or a guest taking items from a home during a party.

For theft, a seven-year prison term is the maximum term.



The definition of robbery is stated as follows: "A person is guilty of robbery if, immediately before or at the time of committing theft, and in order to do so, he employs force on any person or places or attempts to place any person of being instantly subjected to violence. Simply put, someone commits robbery if they steal from someone while employing force or giving them a reason to believe that force would be used.

This can include a street mugging or robbery of a shop, business, or security vehicle. Due to the violent nature of robbery, it is treated as being more serious than theft and the maximum sentence is life.



Section 9 of the 1968 Act creates two offences that both require proof that the defendant entered any building or part of a building as a trespasser. There must also be an additional element concerning the intention or the actions of the defendant whilst in the building or part of it.

Section 9(1)(a) requires proof that the entry took place with the intention of:

  • stealing.
  • inflicting GBH; or committing unlawful damage. Section 9(1)(b) requires proof that after the entry took place the defendant: stole or attempted to steal anything; or inflicted grievous bodily harm upon a person or attempted to do so.

The maximum sentence for burglary of a building other than a dwelling is 10 years imprisonment on indictment. The maximum for burglary of a dwelling is 14 years. The maximum sentence for aggravated burglary is imprisonment for life. Although a conviction for a ‘third strike’ domestic burglary makes a defendant aged 18 or over liable to a minimum sentence of 3 years, in accordance with sections 111(1) and (2) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. The court must impose a sentence of at least 3 years in custody.


Bell Lamb & Joynson

If you are currently released under investigation for any dishonest offence or have been invited into a voluntary interview concerning an allegation of theft, robbery or burglary then please contact our criminal department at 03444124348 or enquire via our online chat function on our website.