A man has been charged with a string of offences over a spate of alleged armed robberies in Northern New South Wales.
According to police, one of the incidents over which 41-year old John Cole was charged involved him breaking into a business on Park Lane in Lennox Head, a seaside village in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, at around 1.20am on Friday, 14 July 2023 and demanding cash from a man of the same age while wielding a pistol, before fleeing the scene on a bicycle with the stolen money.
In another alleged incident on the same morning, Mr Cole is said to have entered a recreation centre in the same region and threatened a 30-year old man and two women, aged 35 and 38, with the pistol before obtaining money from the premises and fleeing.
He was arrested a short time later and taken to Ballina Police Station where he was charged with several offences including robbery armed with a dangerous weapon, aggravated break, enter and commit serious indictable offence and detain for advantage.
He later faced Lismore Local Court where bail was formally refused.
The offence of robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon in NSW
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You robbed or assaulted another person with the intention to rob, or stopped any mail, person with mail, vehicle, train with the intention to rob or search, and
- You were armed with a dangerous weapon at the time.
What is the meaning of robbery?
The legislation does not define the word ‘robbery’, but the courts have found it occurs where:
“the victim… [is] compelled by force or fear to submit to the theft… It is not necessary that the offender applies force… It is enough that the offender by his or her conduct…Puts the victim in fear of violence”.
What is a dangerous weapon?
The term ‘dangerous weapon’ encompasses:
- A firearm or imitation firearm,
- A prohibited weapon, or,
- A spear gun.
A ‘firearm’ is in turn defined as, ‘A gun, or other weapon, that is or was, capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank fire firearm, or an air gun, but does not include a paintball marker.’
An ‘imitation firearm’ is an object that, regardless of its colour, weight or composition, or the presence or absence of any moveable parts, substantially duplicates in appearance a firearm, but is not a firearm. It does not include an object produced and identified as a children’s toy.
Schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 contains a long list of items that are considered to be ‘prohibited weapons’.
- Flick knives, ballistic knives and sheath knives
- Star knives, butterfly knives, trench knives and push daggers
- Bombs, grenades, rockets, missiles or anything that propels or launches a weapon
- Anything containing or expelling an explosive, incendiary, irritant, gas or smoke
- Spear guns less than 45cm in length
- Crossbows and slingshots (other than children’s toys)
- Blow-guns, blog-pipes and darts capable of being projected from them
- Maces (other than ceremonial) and flails
- Whips comprised partly of metal and cat-o’-nine tails
- Nunchakus (other than children’s toys)
- Side-handle batons (other than children’s toys), extended and telescopic batons
- Tasers and hand-held devices that administer an electric shock
- Knuckle-dusters, sap gloves and studded gloves
- Pepper spray and other defence devices capable of discharging an irritant
- Body armour vests
- Acoustic or light-emitting devices designed to disorient or cause incapacity
- Handcuffs (other than children’s toys or designed to be released by wearer)
- Laser pointers with an output of more than 1 milliwatt
- Portable tyre deflation devices, and
A strictly indictable offence
Robbery armed with a dangerous weapon is what’s known as a ‘strictly indictable offence’, which means it must be finalised in a higher court, such as the District Court of New South Wales; it cannot be finalised in the Local Court.
What penalties are actually imposed by the courts?
According to the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, 179 cases of robbery armed with a dangerous weapon have been sentenced in the higher courts since sentencing reforms came into effect on 24 September 2018.
158 of those cases (88.3%) resulted in sentences of imprisonment, 19 (10.6%) were subject to intensive correction orders and 2 (1.1%) were given community correction orders.
The median full term sentence of imprisonment was 6 years, and the median minimum term was 30 to 36 months.
What legal defences are available?
Legal defences to robbery charges include self-defence, duress, necessity and claim of right – the last of this is where you genuinely believed you were legally entitled to all of the property obtained.
Where evidence is raised of a legal defence, the onus of proof shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply.
You are entitled to an acquittal if the prosecution is unable to do this.
Going to court over allegations of robbery?
If you have been accused of a robbery offence, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a conference with an experienced defence lawyer with an exceptional track record of achieving outstanding outcomes in these types of cases.