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Depriving a claimant of their freedom of movement, without consent or legal justification.

Now for the hardcore indepth review...

False imprisonment is commitedwhen a defendant imposed a total restraint on the liberty and free movement of the claimant. Modern case scenarios commonly involve wrongful arrests and detention by police and store detectives.

The restraint must be total

False imprisonment requires a total restraint, meaning the claimant cannot escape in any direction. Therefore, by leaving a safe exit open for the claimant to leave, the defendant is not liable.

Bird v Jones - The defendants cordened off a section of the Hammersmith in London for paying spectators to view a regatta, a type of boat race. The claimant, a jogger, wanted to cross the footpath and climbed into the area without paying. Stewards stooped him proceeding further, yet he was allowed to go back the way he came, and cross via another section. He refused, and stayed there for 30 minutes. The defendant was not liable as the restraint was not total.

False imprisonment also does not occur in situations where the claimant has agreed to a contract, with a reasonable condition for being allowed to leave.

Robinson v Balmain Ferry (Source Case)
- The claimant wanted to cross on a ferry. The charge was 'a penny on, a penny off' (It made it easier to divide the cash for both landowners of the ferry dock, one at each end). He just missed the ferry, so changed his mind about crossing and tried leaving from the way he came. He was asked to pay the agreed penny off, but refused stating the fact he did not cross. It was held that as he had agreed beforehand to pay a penny to get off the premises, it was a reasonable condition to leave. The defendant was not liable.

Herd v Weardale (Source Case) - Several miners went down a mine lift to work. Close to the start of their shift they believed the work they were being asked to do was unsafe, and asked for the lift to come back down in order to pick them up. Weardale Steel, their employer, refused to send a lift until their contracted shifts had finished, which was 5 hours later (In the end they sent the lift 20 minutes later). The miners were originally sued in the County Court for breach of their employment contract, which they appealed stating false imprisonment. Weardale was not liable, based on the grounds that the claimants had willingly entered the pit, and that they were only obliged to take them to the surface at the end of their shift.

It is however an offence to detain a person who has only commited a civil offence. Criminal cases involving stealing which the type of detention is illegal are discussed on the defences page.

Sunbolf v Alford - It was false imprisonment when a landlord wrongly detained his lodger for not paying rent.

Area of confinement.

The area of confinement depends on the circumstances of the case, however the basic rule is that the defendant fixes the barriers and for the claimant to escape would require personal injury or be otherwise unreasonable. If there is reasonable means of escape, yet it would involve breaching someone elses civil rights is it acceptable?

Wright v Wilson - In this case the claimant could escape, yet in doing so he trespassed on someone elses land. The court held this was acceptable in the circumstances and was a sufficient enough reason to prevent liability.

The barriers in the area of confinement need not be physical for false imprisonment to arise.

Harnett v Bond - The claimant was a mental patient from an instiution, who went to the doctor in order to be released. The doctor told him he could leave, yet the defendant told him he must stay for a little while longer. This shows even verbal barriers can count as false imprisonment.

This also leads to the conclusion that if a scenario arised where a defendant placed a gun to the claimants head and told him not to move, it would be false imprisonment. It also illustrates the beautiful ways in which areas of trespass to the person come together, as it would be assault too, and may lead to battery.

State of mind of both parties.

It is not required that the claimant knows he is being restrained at the time.

Meering v Graham White Aviation - The claimant was asked to go to a room with two work policemen from the Avation company. He asked why and stated he would leave if not told. When told it was on suspision of theft he agreed to stay, and the works police stood outside until the metropolitan police arrived. Unkown to him they were asked to prevent him leaving. It was held that an act which fulfils the requirement for a false imprisonment, even if the claimant is unaware at the time, still counts. Meering was entitled to damages.

The defedant must intend to restrict the claimants movements, mere negligence is insufficient.

Sayers v Harlow Council - The claimant became locked in a lavatory due to a lock breaking on the door. This was not false imprisonment as there was no intent, and it is common knowledge that if you go into a public toilet you will get stuck/ catch herpes/ die of general horror.

Thing to ponder: Is putting someone in a coma false imprisonment?
What about stranding someone in a desolate place?