False Imprisonment and Malicious Prosecution| Law of Torts Notes




False Imprisonment:

False Imprisonment is the infliction of bodily restraint which is not expressly or impliedly authorised by law. False means erroneous (wrong). There is the restraint of a man’s liberty, when the person cannot freely go about at his own will

There are two essentials :

  1. Knowledge of the plaintiff about his imprisonment is not essential.
    Merrings Case: Defendant D suspected M of stealing a Keg of Varnish. He asked two police-men who went to M and brought him to the defendant. M was put in a waiting room and the police were standing outside. Held : Though the plaintiff did not know that the police were outside, this amounted to false imprisonment
  2. The restraint must be complete :
    In Bird V. Jones. The defendant wrongfully covered a part of the road on a Bridge, put certain seats for spectators to see the regatta show on the river. P claimed over the fence without paying, but was prevented by D. Held : D not liable because the restraint was not complete. P could have taken the uncovered part of the road to go to the other side.
    Herd V. Steel Co: In this case, P, a mine-worker came down the lift at 9-30 A.M. to the work-spot. As per rules he could go back at 4 P.M. using the lift. P was ordered to do a different job which he wrongfully refused. P demanded to be taken up but was prevented. He was detained for about 20 minutes. P sued D, the steel Company. Held : D not liable as there was no false imprisonment.
    Robinson V. Bui main ferry Co. : P paid a penny to enter a Wharf of C. P was to wait until a boat came. He could take the journey on paying again a penny, to go to the other side. However, P refused to pay. Held : D not liable as the toll of a penny was reasonable and that D could prevent evasion of payments. There was no false imprisonment.

Malicious Prosecution.

It is defined as the institution of Malicious case against another without reasonable or probable case.

In Malicious prosecution the plaintiff must prove:

  1. That the defendant prosecuted him in a Criminal court.
  2. That the prosecution ended in favour of the plaintiff, i .e, he was acquitted.
  3. That the prosecution lacked reasonable and probable cause.
  4. That the defendant acted with malice.
  5. That the damage resulted to the plaintiff.

Essentials explained:

  1. There must be a prosecution by the defendant complaining against the plaintiff. This means at least summons must have been issued to appear before the court.
  2. The plaintiff must prove that there was acquittal or discharge. If the plaintiff is convicted he cannot sue for Malicious prosecution. Similarly when the case is withdrawn under a compromise, no suit lies for Malicious prosecution.
  3. There must be lack of reasonable and probable cause. In other words, it must be proved that at the time the charge was made there was no reasonable cause for the prosecution to proceed further. Objectively, the prosecutor must have a case which he believed to be true. This is to be judged from the standard of a reasonable man. Mere suspicion is not enough. Further, dismissal or acquittal by the court will not create a presumption of malice, or reasonable cause. It must be proved as a “Fact” that there was no probable Cause.
  4. In Dr. Abarth V. North Eastern Railways: A sued the Railways for personal injuries suffered by him in a Railway collision. He got a large sum as compensation. The Railway Directors relying on information that Dr. Abarth manufactured symptoms of injury of A, instituted an enquiry. They found sufficient ground against Dr. Abarth. They prosecuted him, but he was acquitted. Thereupon, Dr. Abarth sued the Directors for Malicious Prosecution. Held : Not liable. Reason : The Directors had taken reasonable care and also had honestly believed in the case.
  5. Malice : This must be proved by the plaintiff. If the objective of the defendant is vindictive or to tarnish the name of a person or purely personal or prejudicial, then there is Malice.
  6. The damage must be proved, that is, the damage of man’s fame, or of the safety of his person, or of the security of his property. There may be a moral stigma attached. Eg., D prosecutes P for forgery but P is acquitted, thereupon P may sue D for Malicious prosecution.

False Imprisonment and Malicious prosecution Distinguished

Malicious prosecution

  1. The defendant D Maliciously sets the Criminal Law in motion against the plaintiff P. There is the judicial officer who conducts the Criminal case by issuing the process.
  2. The plaintiff must allege and prove that was no reasonable or probable cause to prosecute the plaintiff.
  3. Malice must be proved by the plaintiff. Otherwise, he fails (Dr. Abarth’s case)

Maintenance and Champerty.
Maintenance means aiding or assisting a party to a case in civil proceedings, by pecuniary or other means, without any legal justification. This is the case of an intermeddler who acts without any legal right. In Common Law (in England) this is a tort as well as a crime. Champerty is a form of maintenance but with an agreement to share the proceeds of the gains of the civil proceedings. Here ‘C’ enters into an agreement with P to bear the cost in a suit between P and D. ‘D’ is not having any legal right. He has no common interest with P. hence C is liable for Champerty. The object of law is to prevent litigious tendency in public interest.

False Imprisonment

  1. This is the wrongful (erroneous) restraint of P, the plaintiff with out any legal authority. Here defendant acts wrongfully (Meering’s case)
  2. The defendant must prove that he had reasonable justification to detain the plaintiff (Herd V. Steel Co., Robinson V. Balmain ferry Co.)
  3. Malice is not Material. Bradlaugh V. Newdegate.
    P sat as a member of the parliament, without taking oath as required by the procedure of the House, and participated in Voting. D, a member of the parliament procured ‘C’ to sue P, for contravention of the Rules. D gave a bond to ‘C’ to indemnify ‘C’ of all the expenses. Held : C and D had no common interest and hence D was liable for the tort of Maintenance. In India the above English Rules are not specifically applied.

Assistance given to a person to protect his right and to prevent any oppression is valid, if not opposed to public policy. The court always looks to the bonafides of the parties. If the agreements are found to be unconscionable or made with malafides or with improper motives, or contrary to public policy, they are bad.

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