Introduction to Trespass to the Person

Note on Introduction to Trespass to the Person by Legum

Introduction to Trespass to the Person:

Trespass to the person means an intentional or direct interference with the body or liberty of another and arises irrespective of the presence of harm.

Elements of Trespass to the Person:

1. Intentional: Trespass to the person cannot be committed by accident. In the case of Letang v Cooper, Lord Denning held that when an injury or damage is intentionally inflicted, then the injured party has a cause of action in trespass.

2. No harm required: When there is a trespass to the person, there can be an action in tort whether or not the person was injured/harmed. Trespasses are thus considered actionable per se.

3. Direct and physical: According to Elliot and Quinn, “trespass requires an act which is direct and physical. where the rights protected by tort are infringed by an indirect act, there may be a remedy in a tort such as nuisance or negligence, but not in trespass.”

Forms of Trespass to the Person:

There are three main forms of trespass to a person. These are

1. Assault: The meaning of “assault” in tort is different from its everyday usage. Whilst assault in everyday parlance means a violent physical attack, assault in tort is an act which causes a claimant to perceive, apprehend, or believe that immediate physical violence will be used on him or her. Summarily, an assault in tort is the apprehension/belief that one is about to be physically attacked. For example, pointing a gun at a person is considered an assault in tort as it indicates an impending physical attack. Similarly, words threatening violence may count as assault.

2. Battery: This involves a direct, intentional, and physical use of force against another person without his/her consent. For example, shooting a person, or hitting a person with one’s fist, are considered acts of battery.

3. False Imprisonment: This involves the unlawful restriction of a person’s freedom of movement.

These forms of trespass are extensively discussed in subsequent notes.


Catherine Elliott and Frances Quinn, Tort Law, (7th edn, Longman 2009)