Lord Edward, COKE CJ explained false imprisonment as ‘’Every restraint of the liberty of a free man is imprisonment although he be not in the confines of a prison.’’
It should be noted that false imprisonment is actionable per se and must occur as a result of the direct act of the defendant.
Elements of the tort of false imprisonment
- Knowledge of the plaintiff: False Imprisonment can occur whether or not the plaintiff was aware of it at the time it occurred. According to Lord Atkin, ‘’a person can be imprisoned while he is asleep, in the case of drunkenness, while unconscious or while he is a lunatic.’’ See the case of Meering vs Grahame white aviation company ltd.
- Restraint must be total or complete: if there’s a reasonable means of escape, it cannot amount to false imprisonment; in Bird vs Jones, the plaintiff was prevented from crossing a particular bridge. He was however allowed to go through another route. It was held that there was no false imprisonment.
However if the means of escape is risky or may cause injury, there would be liability for false imprisonment. The restraint does not have to be physical. It can be in form of an assertion of authority.
- The state of mind of the defendant: The defendant must intend to do the act that resulted in the false imprisonment and even if there is a good intention behind it, there would still be liability for false imprisonment. In R Vs Governor Of Brockhill Prison Exparte Evans, the time of imprisonment of a convict was wrongfully calculated. Thus,the convict spent extra time in prison, it was held that this resulted in false imprisonment.