London

Snatched cigarette was not robbery, judge rules

Three teenage girls found guilty of robbing a woman by snatching a lit cigarette from her have had their convictions quashed by the High Court.

A judge ruled there was no evidence that the girl who actually stole the cigarette used the force necessary to constitute a robbery.

Mr Justice Mitting quashed the robbery convictions and substituted lesser ones of theft.

The sentences the girls received remain in place.

The judge said one of the girls, referred to in court as RP, snatched the cigarette from Mayura Gill in Abbey Road, Kilburn, north-west London, in August 2010.

'No physical contact'

Immediately afterwards all three girls laughed and shared the cigarette while shouting, swearing and making racial comments to Mrs Gill.

Section 8 of the Theft Act states that a person is guilty of robbery if he or she uses force to steal, or puts the victim in fear of being subjected to force.

The judge said there was no evidence of hands touching or any other "direct physical contact between the thief and victim".

He said: "It cannot be said that the minimum use of force required to remove a cigarette from between the fingers suffices to amount to the use of force against that person."

RP received a youth rehabilitation order for 12 months for robbery and was ordered to perform 60 hours of unpaid work.

She received a concurrent similar sentence for racially-aggravated assault committed on Mrs Gill after the cigarette incident.

The other two girls, referred to as GP and RW, both received nine-month rehabilitation orders on each charge, with RW also required to take part in a "Think First" programme and subjected to a 15-day reparation order.

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