Trespass To The Person Cases

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Collins v Wilcock [1984] 1 WLR 1172

Two police officers on duty in a police car observed two women in the street who appeared to be soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. One of the women was known to the police as a prostitute but the other, the appellant, was not a known prostitute. When the police officers requested the appellant to get into the car for questioning she refused to do so and instead walked away from the car. One of the officers, a policewoman, got out of the car and followed the appellant in order to question her regarding her identity and conduct and to caution her, if she was suspected of being a prostitute, in accordance with the approved police procedure for administering cautions for suspicious behaviour before charging a woman with being a prostitute, contrary to s 1 of the Street Offences Act 1959. The appellant refused to speak to the policewoman and walked away, whereupon the policewoman took hold of the appellant’s arm to detain her. The appellant then swore at the policewoman and scratched the officer’s arm with her fingernails. The appellant was convicted of assaulting a police officer in the execution of her duty, contrary to s 51(1) of the Police Act 1964. She appealed against the conviction, contending that when the assault occurred the officer was not exercising her power of arrest and was acting beyond the scope of her duty in detaining the appellant by taking hold of her arm. The police contended that the officer was acting in the execution of her duty when the assault occurred because the officer had good cause to detain the appellant for the purpose of questioning her to see whether a caution for suspicious behaviour should be administered.

Held –

(1) Except when lawfully exercising his power of arrest or some other statutory power a police officer had no greater rights than an ordinary citizen to restrain another. Accordingly, whether a police officer’s conduct was lawful when detaining a person, to question him in circumstances where the officer was not exercising his power of arrest or other statutory power depended on whether the physical the officer used to detain the person was no more than generally acceptable physical between two citizens for the purpose of one of them engaging the attention of the other and as such was lawful physical as between two ordinary citizens. If the conduct used by the officer went beyond such generally acceptable conduct eg if the officer gripped a person’s arm or shoulder rather than merely laying a hand on his sleeve or tapping his shoulder, the officer’s conduct would constitute the infliction of unlawful force and thus constitute a battery (see p 378 j and p 379 a to e, post); dictum of Parke B in Rawlings v Till (1837) 3 M & W at 29, Ludlow v Burgess (1971) 75 Cr App R 227 and Bentley v Brudzinski (1982) 75 Cr App R 217 applied; Wiffin v Kincard (1807) 2 Bos & PNR 471.

(2) The 1959 Act did not confer power on a police officer to stop and detain a woman who was a prostitute for the purpose of cautioning her. Furthermore, the fact that the reason an officer detained a woman was to caution her regarding her suspicious behaviour did not render the officer’s conduct lawful if in detaining her he used a degree of physical that went beyond lawful physical as between two ordinary citizens (see p 380 b to f, post).

(3) Since the policewoman had not been exercising her power of arrest when she detained the appellant, and since in taking hold of the appellant’s arm to detain her the policewoman’s conduct went beyond acceptable lawful physical between two citizens, it followed that the officer’s act constituted a battery on the appellant and that she had not been acting in the execution of her duty when the assault occurred. Accordingly the appeal would be allowed and the conviction quashed (see p 380 f g, post).

Scott v Shepherd (1773) 2 B1 R892

Trespass and assault will lie for originally throwing a squib, which after having been thrown about in self-defence by other persons, at last put out the plaintiff’s eye.


Bird v Jones (1845) 7 QB 742

Plaintiff, attempting to pass in a particular direction, was obstructed by the defendant, who prevented him from going in any particular direction but one, not being that in which he had endeavoured to pass. Held, no imprisonment. And this, whether the plaintiff had or had not a right to pass in the first mentioned direction. Per Patteson, Coleridge, and Williams Js. Dissentiente Lord Denman C.J.

Robinson v Balmain New Ferry [1910] AC 295

In an action for damages for assault and false imprisonment it appeared that the plaintiff had contracted with the defendants to enter their wharf and stay there till the boat should start and then be taken by the boat to the other side. No breach of the defendants’ undertaking was alleged, but the plaintiff after entry changed his mind and desired to effect an exit from their wharf without payment of the prescribed toll for exit, and was for a time forcibly prevented:-

Held, that he ought to have been nonsuited. The toll imposed was reasonable and the defendants were entitled to resist a forcible evasion of it.

Meering v Graham-White Aviation Co Ltd (1920) 122 LT 44

A private prosecutor not having the privilege that a police constable possesses of imprisoning a person on mere suspicion that a felony has been committed, false imprisonment results, if the person is detained by the private prosecutor. Arrest, however by a police constable which follows the placing of the case in his hands to do his duty is not an arrest by a private prosecutor, but is an arrest by the police constable.

The fact that a person is not actually aware that he is being imprisoned does not amount to evidence that he is not imprisoned, it being possible for a person to be imprisoned in law without his being conscious of the fact and appreciating the position which he is placed, laying hands upon the person of the party imprisoned not being essential.

The definition of “Imprisonment” in “Termes de la Ley” is an adequate statement of what is meant by that expression. Bird v Jones 7 QB 742 and Warner v Burford 4 CB (NS) 204 approved.

Absence of reasonable and probable cause for instituting a prosecution against a person affords evidence from which it may be inferred that there was a want of honest belief on the part of the prosecutor in the guilt of the person accused. But absence of reasonable and probable cause alone will not suffice. There must be evidence of some further indirect motive.

The depositions of witnesses taken in pursuance of s. 17 of the Indictable Offences Act, 1848, in the form set forth in the Schedule to that Act should appear in chronological order, a record of the depositions being kept day by day with a fresh caption at the beginning of each day’s proceedings showing what witnesses have been examined on that day, and what part of their evidence has been given on that day.

Observations of Duke L.J. as to the function of a judge at nisi prius.

Observations of Atkin L.J. concerning the burden cast upon judges in trying civil actions in the High Court of Justice in making the only official record of the whole of the evidence which is adduced before them by taking a note thereof in longhand.

Order of Bray J. varied.

Heard v Weardale Steel, Coal & Coke Co [1915] AC 67

A minor descended a coal mine at 9.30 am for the purpose of working therein for his employers, the owners of the colliery. In the ordinary course he would be entitled to be raised to the surface at the conclusion of his shift, which expired at 4 pm. On arriving at the bottom of the mine the miner was ordered to do certain work which he wrongfully refused to do, and at 11 am he requested to be taken to the surface in a lift, which was the only means of egress from the mine. His employers refused to permit him to use the lift until 1.30 pm although it had been available for the carriage of men to the surface from 1.10 pm, and in consequence he was detained in the mine against his will for twenty minutes. In respect of this detention the miner sued his employers for damages for false imprisonment:-

Held, on the principle of volenti non fit injuria, that the action could not be maintained. Decision of the Court of Appeal [1913] 3 K. B. 771 affirmed.


Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2 QB 57

The defendant, by way of a practical joke, falsely represented to the plaintiff, a married woman, that her husband had met with a serious accident whereby both his legs were broken. The defendant made the statement with intent that it should be believed to be true. The plaintiff believed it to be true, and in consequence suffered a violent nervous shock which rendered her ill:-

Held, that these facts constituted a good cause of action.

Victorian Railways Commissioners v. Coultas, (1888) 13 App. Cas. 222, and Allsop v. Allsop, (1860) 5 H. & N. 534, considered.

Janvier v Sweeney [1919] 2 KB 316

False words and threats calculated to cause, uttered with the knowledge that they are likely to cause, and actually causing physical injury to the person to whom they are uttered are actionable.

The defendants were two private detectives. One of them was designing to inspect certain letters, to which he believed the plaintiff, a maid servant, had means of access. He instructed the other defendant, who was his assistant, to induce the plaintiff to show him the letters, telling him that the plaintiff would be remunerated for this service. The assistant endeavoured to persuade the plaintiff by false statements and threats, as the result of which the plaintiff fell ill from a nervous shock.

In an action by the plaintiff against the defendants for damages:-

Held, that the assistant was acting within the scope of his employment and that both the defendants were liable.

Wilkinson v. Downton [1897] 2 Q. B. 57 approved.



R v Billinghurst [1978] Crim LR 553

Newport Crown Court: Judge John Rutter: June 12 and 13, 1978.

During a Rugby Football match and in an off-the-ball incident B punched G, the opposing scrum-half, in the face fracturing his jaw in two places. B was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm contrary to section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. The only issue in the case was consent. Evidence was given by G that on previous occasions he had been punched and had himself punched opponents on the Rugby field, and by a defence witness Mervyn Davies, a former Welsh International Rugby player, that in the modem game of rugby punching is the rule rather than the exception.

It was argued by the defence that in the modern game of rugby players consented to the risk of some injury and that the prosecution would have to prove that the blow struck by B was one which was outside the normal expectation of a player so that he could not be said to have consented to it by participating in the game.

The prosecution argued that public policy imposes limits on violence to which a rugby player can consent and that whereas he is deemed to consent to vigorous and even over-vigorous physical on the ball, he is not deemed to consent to any deliberate physical off the ball.

The following article and authorities were referred to: “Consent and Public Policy” by Glanville Williams [1962] Crim.L.R. 74 at p. 80; Coney, 8 Q.B.D. 534; Bradshaw, 14 Cox C.C. 83; Moore (1898) 14 T.L.R. 229; Maki (1970) 14 D.L.R. 164; Green (1970) 16 D.L.R. 127.

The judge directed the jury that Rugby was a game of physical necessarily involving the use of force and that players are deemed to consent to force “of a kind which could reasonably be expected to happen during a game.” He went on to direct them that a rugby player has no unlimited licence to use force and that “there must obviously be cases which cross the line of that to which a player is deemed to consent.” A distinction which the jury might regard as decisive was that between force used in the course of play and force used outside the course of play. The judge told the jury that by their verdict they could set a standard for the future.

The jury, by a majority verdict of 11 to 1, convicted B, who was treated as a man of previous good character and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.


R v Williams (Gladstone) (1984) Cr App R 276

M saw a youth attempting to rob a woman in the street. He gave chase, knocked the youth to the ground and attempted to immobilise him. The appellant, who had not witnessed the attempted robbery, then came on the scene. M told the appellant that he was a police officer, which was untrue, and that he was arresting the youth. When M failed to produce a warrant card a struggle ensued in which the appellant punched M in the face. The appellant was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm. At his trial his defence was that he had honestly believed that the youth was being unlawfully assaulted by M and that it was irrelevant whether his mistake was reasonable or unreasonable. The judge directed the jury that the appellant had to have an honest belief based on reasonable grounds that M was acting unlawfully. The appellant was convicted. He appealed on the ground that the judge had misdirected the jury.

Held – if a defendant was labouring under a mistake of fact as to the circumstances when he committed an alleged offence he was to be judged according to his mistaken view of the facts regardless of whether his mistake was reasonable or unreasonable. The reasonableness or otherwise of the defendant’s belief was only material to the question of whether the belief was in fact held by the defendant at all. it followed that there had been a material misdirection. The appeal would therefore be allowed and the conviction quashed (see p 413 g, p 414 c to e and p 415 d e g j, post).

Beckford v R [1988] AC 130

The appellant was a police officer who was a member of an armed posse which was sent to investigate a report that an armed man was terrorising and menacing his family at their house. When the police arrived at the house a man ran out of the back of the house pursued by police officers, including the appellant. There was a conflict of evidence about what then occurred. The Crown alleged that the man was unarmed and was shot by the appellant and another police officer after he had been discovered in hiding and had surrendered, while the appellant claimed that the man had a firearm, had fired at the police and had been killed when they returned the fire. At the trial of the appellant for murder the judge directed the jury that if the appellant had a reasonable belief that his life was in danger or that he was in danger of serious bodily injury he was entitled to be acquitted on the grounds of self-defence. He was convicted. He appealed to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica, contending that he was entitled to rely on the defence of self-defence if he had had an honest belief that he had been in danger. The Court of Appeal held that the appellant’s belief that the circumstances required self-defence had to be reasonably and not merely honestly held, and dismissed his appeal. The appellant appealed to the Privy Council.

Held – if a plea of self-defence was raised when the defendant had acted under a mistake as to the facts, he was to be judged according to his mistaken belief of the facts regardless of whether, viewed objectively, his mistake was reasonable. Accordingly, the test for self-defence was that a person could use such force in the defence of himself or another was reasonable in the circumstances as he honestly believed them to be. It followed that the trial judge had misdirected the jury. The appeal would therefore be allowed and the conviction quashed (see p 426 g, p 431 e f and p 432 e f, post).

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