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“It is contrary to principle that the executive should not be liable for illegally interfering with the liberty of the subject.  The remedy of habeas corpus and the tort of false imprisonment are important constitutional safeguards of the liberty of the subject against the executive.4

4.Imprisonment for these purposes entails the total restraint of a person’s liberty5.   The place of detention is irrelevant, but the restraint must be within defined boundaries (in contrast, for example, to police officers directing people not to attend a particular location).  The means used to accomplish the detention need not be physical and may arise, for example, from the assertion of authority, such as a power of arrest.  It is not necessary to show that the claimant was aware at the time that he was being detained unlawfully6.  Where a person is lawfully held in custody, a deterioration in the conditions of detention will not of itself render the imprisonment unlawful7.

5.In theory there is no minimum period of confinement necessary for a claim in false imprisonment to succeed.  In Brooks v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis8 the Court of Appeal held that the tort may be established by a short period of restraint and that requiring the claimant to wait in a police car for “what felt like 30 minutes” could suffice9.  County Court false imprisonment claims arising from stop and searches conducted by police officers are relatively commonplace.  In Parry v Sharples10 a person detained at gun-point for two minutes was held to have been detained for the purposes of a claim in false imprisonment.

6.False imprisonment is a tort of strict liability and it is no defence to such a claim for the defendant to show that he took reasonable care or acted in good faith.  This is to be contrasted with the tort of misfeasance in a public office where bad faith is an essential ingredient of the tort.  This position was confirmed by the House of Lords in R v Governor of Brockhill Prison ex parte Evans, a case where the claimant was

4 R v Governor of Brockhill Prison ex parte Evans at 43F.

5 Meering v Grahame-White Aviation Co. (1919) 122 TLR 44.

6 Murray v Ministry of Defence [1988] 2 All ER 521 HL.

7 R v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison ex parte Hague [1992] 1 AC 58 HL.

8 [2002] EWCA Civ 407.

9 See paras 20 & 77.  (The case was subsequently considered by the House of Lords in relation to the negligence claim only.)

10 (1991) 17 July CA LexisNexis.

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