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16. ROBBERY, THEFT AND FRAUD: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

  • Theft

A person commits theft if he unlawfully and intentionally takes property from the owner or lawful possessor with the intention to permanently deprive that person of his rights thereto.

Examples:

  • X walks into his neighbour’s garden and, without his permission, takes the neighbour’s lawnmower with the intention of never returning it. (If his intention was to return the lawnmower at some stage, it is not theft.)
  • X enters a shop, puts a chocolate in his pocket and walks out without paying.

Robbery

Robbery consists of theft of property by intentionally using violence or threats of violence to force the owner or lawful possessor into submission. Robbery is sometimes referred to as "theft by violence"

Examples:

  • X approaches someone on the street, threatens the person with a firearm or physically assaults him to make him hand over his valuables, and runs off with his wallet.
  • Hijackings
  • Fraud

Fraud is the unlawful and intentional making of a misrepresentation which causes actual prejudice or which is potentially prejudicial to another.

When an accused makes a representation about the existence of a fact, which in reality does not exist, and thereby causes or could potentially cause the person to act in a way that is prejudicial to himself, fraud has been committed. The misrepresentation can be a positive act or an omission. It is very important that the fact or facts.

SNYMAN, Criminal Law 3RD Edition(1995)

on which the misrepresentation is based, must be ascertainable at the moment when the representation is made.

Examples

  • X completes and signs another person’s cheque without his permission, and presents it for payment.
  • X buys clothing on credit, but never intends to repay the account. Where a person buys on credit, he makes an implied representation that he is willing to pay, that he intends to pay in the future and that he will have enough money to pay. 

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