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Armed Robbery in Glasgow City Centre – What Could Suspects Be Charged With?

Around noon yesterday (24th September), a gang of four men raided jewellers in the Argyll Arcade between Buchanan Street and Argyle Street in Glasgow. Masked and armed with hammers and axes, the suspects are yet to be identified, although police have recovered a white Volkswagen Golf abandoned in Townhead, believed to be the get away vehicle.

No serious violence or harm seems to have been committed against any person or property, although a security guard is reported to have injured. Footage taken by members of the public who witnessed the event, which has been shared online, also appears to show attempts to smash shop windows.

What offences are likely to be charged for those suspected of armed robbery?

Most obviously, the offence of robbery – a common law offence that has at its heart the element of violence and force. Robbery is distinct from the crime of theft. Theft is where the criminal conduct is to clandestinely deprive someone of their property without their knowledge. Robbery, on the other hand, is committed if property is feloniously appropriated by means of immediate violence or the immediate threat of violence.

In regard to being armed, a charge of being in possession of an offensive weapon in a public place under section 47 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 may also be listed on an Indictment. The offence will only be proved if the intention of having the articles was to cause injury.

Attempts to smash shop windows are also likely to amount to criminal damage, possibly constituting the crime of vandalism or malicious mischief, depending on the cost of the damage done. If the costs of the damage are relatively low, vandalism may be a suitable charge, which is a statutory offence found in section 52 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995. If the cost is particularly high and there is a perceived need for greater punishment, the common law crime of malicious mischief may be better suited to the facts. 

Further, if the Golf is connected to the incident, an Indictment may include the relatively minor offence of abandoning a motor vehicle under section 2(1)(a) of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978.

If suspects are identified, arrested and charge, but there is insufficient evidence to prove each offence against them individually, they may still be found criminally responsible as a body – responsibility can be inferred from the acts of the individuals composing the gang.

Likely Sentence?

The seriousness of the incident means the case would most likely be heard in the High Court of Justiciary, Scotland’s supreme criminal trial and appeal court, which has unlimited sentencing powers for both imprisonment and fines. The likely sentences following conviction of the offences above are difficult to predict – the courts have a very wide discretion when deciding how a case will be disposed of, largely operated on a case-by-case basis and based on judicial practice and decided cases.

Although the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 provides for a Scottish Sentencing Council that would provide sentencing guidelines, the provisions of the Act have not yet been brought into force. In the absence of guidance, it is essential to seek the expertise of legal professionals familiar with judicial practice and sentencing norms.

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