False Imprisonment

False imprisonment overlaps heavily with false arrest, so the two are dealt with simultaneously here. In Bird v Jones (1845) 7 QB 742 it was ruled that imprisonment need not be in a locked room. All that is needed is that a person be kept in one place against their will.  ‘Imprisonment is... a total restraint of the liberty of the person, for however short a time, and not a partial obstruction of his will, whatever inconvenience it may bring on him.’ Therefore there must be no reasonable means of escape. The court qualified this by stating that mere obstruction of passage alone cannot constitute imprisonment, whether by threat of violence or otherwise, if the person is at liberty to stay where they are, or to go in another direction....




Implied Imprisonment

Implied imprisonment/arrest is an issue which may be crucial at times for circumstance investigators who conduct interviews with insurance policy holders. In Symes v Mahon[1] a police officer sought the attendance of a Mr McMahon at a meeting to discuss child support obligations and mistook Mr Mahon for McMahon. The plaintiff was not formally arrested, but compelled by notice to travel from home to Adelaide for a meeting. He willingly submitted to the authority of Constable Symes and boarded the same train. Having failed to attend of his own volition twice, the police directive becomes a key factor in Mahon’s course of action. The court recognised the importance of a psychological barrier to escape – the plaintiff submitted willingly to the defendant’s power as it seemed a better option than formal arrest.


The court’s treatment of his action amounts to recognising an implied form of arrest – one which can be affected without physical force, but where the person is left with only one viable option. Let us suppose that a person whose income has declined recently has an insurance claim pending with a vast sum of money expected after the theft of a large quantity of jewellery, or suppose key business equipment has been stolen and they cannot continue to operate their business until their claim is accepted...






[1] Symes v Mahon [1922] SASR 447.

[2] Darcy v State of New South Wales [2011] NSWCA 413.

Tort Law - Trespass

Trespass to the Person