Highlights on False Imprisonment

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False Imprisonment

Depriving another person of his or her freedom of movement without any legal basis or lawful justification


Elements of False Imprisonment

1. As a form of trespass to the person, it shares some features with the other trespasses. These include: an intentional act, must be the direct act of the defendant inter alia.

2. Total restriction of movement in all directions.

3. The restriction must be without any lawful justification.

4. Lack of consent by the person detained.


Meaning of Total Restriction of Movement

1. The plaintiff must be restricted from moving in all directions.

2. There is a total restriction of movement if the available directions of movement will result in personal harm to the plaintiff.

3. There can be a total restriction of movement in an open field such as a football field.


Possibility of Movement: Bird v Jones

Plaintiff was prevented from moving in one direction, could move in a different direction. Held: No false imprisonment since there was no total restriction


Dangerous Means of Movement: Burton v Davies

In Burton v Davies, the means of movement entailed jumping out of a moving vehicle. Held that if the only means of movement available to the plaintiff is dangerous, there is still a total restriction of movement.


Dangerous Means of Movement: R v Macquire

Only means of movement was by jumping out of a speeding boat. Court held there was false imprisonment.


Watson v Marshal and Cade

Plaintiff was ordered to follow the defendants to a psychiatric hospital. No physical force was used. Holding: No physical force was used at any time by the defendant. But I find that in the circumstances the plaintiff had a justified apprehension that, if he did not submit to do what was asked of him, he would be compelled by force to go to the hospital. Therefore, a restraint was imposed upon the plaintiff which amounted to an "imprisonment" of him by the defendant


Exceptions to the General Principles of False Imprisonment:

  1. Lawful restraint of movement in all directions.
  2. Failing to facilitate the exit of the plaintiff in a way contrary to what was earlier agreed between the plaintiff and the defendant.
  3. Conditional restraint.


Lawful Justification for Restraint: Davidson v Chief Constable of North Wales

Under section 24(6) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the police had a lawful basis to detain a woman suspected of stealing cassette.


No Lawful Justification for Restraint: Collins v Wilcock.

The police officer had no lawful justification to detain a woman suspected of prostitution.


Onogen v Leventis & Co Ltd

If a person directs a police officer to arrest and detain another without lawful justification, the person shall be liable for false imprisonment of that other. The police officer is made an agent


Exception: Herd v Weardale Steel Coal & Coke Co Ltd

Plaintiff agreed with defendant that exit from a mine is 4:00 pm. Plaintiff wanted to leave earlier, defendant refused. Held: no false imprisonment. If a party fails to facilitate the exit of the plaintiff in a way contrary to what was earlier agreed between himself and the party seeking exit, the failing party shall not be liable for false imprisonment.


Conditional restraint: Robinson v Balmain New Ferry Co Ltd

Plaintiff went on defendants wharf. Failed to pay the penny for exit, defendant restrained him. Court held there was no false imprisonment because the condition was reasonable and plaintiff could have still moved by waiting for the boat.


Sunbolf v Alford

Owner of inn locked a customer who refused to pay in the inn. Holding: A debtor cannot be restrained by his creditor to pay debt. Doing so amounts to false imprisonmnt.


Meering v Grahame-White Aviation

A person can be falsely imprisoned without their knowledge.