Comparing sentencing for robbery with Strafzumessung für Raub

Author: SS Terblanche

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: BJuris (PU for CHE) LLD (Unisa). Honorary Professor, UKZN.
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 35 Issue 2, p. 156 – 174


It is a safe assumption that robbery exists, as a crime, in virtually every legal system. Very broadly spoken, it is a crime that consists of the forceful taking of another person’s property. Robbery is often regarded as one of the more serious crimes that can be committed. Such seriousness is then reflected in the severity of the sentence imposed on the robber. However, not all robberies are equally serious.
What factors determine whether one robbery is more or less serious than another? From a South African perspective, the answer to this question is far from certain. This uncertainty exists even though robbery is prevalent – in other words, there is much potential in South African criminal justice to provide a more certain answer.
This contribution explains how South African courts approach sentencing for robbery. It starts by briefly discussing the definition of robbery and then moves to principles governing sentencing in South Africa in general, and the sentencing of robbery in particular.1 I then briefly discuss the same subject matter in German law. Finally, the contribution analyses the most pressing issues afflicting sentencing in South Africa and, in this process, contrasts the legal principles that are in place in Germany.