Trespass To The Person Tort Essay


Trespass is an ancient set of wrongs which mainly deals with the direct, and usually intentional, invasion of a claimant’s interest in either his person, his land or his goods. Trespass was one of medieval forms of action, the second being “trespass on the case” or simply “case” case covered injury which was consequential to a wrong but the wrong was neither forcible nor direct. The distinction can still be seen in the law of torts today; torts which are actionable, such as trespass to land and trespass to person originate from old forms of trespass, while those torts which require prove of damage such as negligence and nuisance.

The law of trespass today has much of its origin in criminal law where its function is deterrent than compensatory. For example an action will lie in trespass but not in negligence even if the claimant has suffered no damage. This shows its usefulness in protecting civil rights hence much of the law of trespass is the basis of a civil liberties today.

Some cases of trespass can be filed under criminal law for example trespass to the person such as assault and battery. This occurs where a criminal offence has been committed. In such cases the courts have powers under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, s.130 to make a compensation order.



Trespass to land is the unlawful intrusion of an individual to another’s land voluntarily. Involuntary intrusion does not amount to trespass. Maxim “cuiusestsolum, eiusestusqueadcoelumetadinfernos” –whoever owns the land, owns it all the way to the heavens and to hell.

Trespass to land is normally a civil wrong but it may give rise to criminal proceedings in some cases i.e. Trespass Act Cap 204 states that a trespasser can be prosecuted criminally if he enters on somebody’s land with the intent to steal goods or commit any other offence.

Otherwise trespass to land is a tort and it’s actionable per se i.e. without proof of general damage, but again an action will not be normally brought for trespass without damage unless the claimant wishes to deter persistent trespassing or there are disputes over boundaries or rights of way.


The claimant should be the current possessor of land at the particular time a wrong of trespass took place.

He may not be the superior owner but he can be an owner through free hold, leasehold, license, or exclusive possessions

Even when the possession is not legal e.g A squatter may sue a trespassing third party, but he cannot sue the real owner for the trespass. CASE ILLUSTRATION: WACHIRA V REPUBLIC[1]

Appellant was convicted of trespass upon private land in proceedings instituted by Mr. Kiroku as “occupier “ of the land .Evidence showed that the appellant was in occupation of some 14.9 acres of land in Kiambu district which had been conveyed by Mrs. Beckley to the land development and settlement board for an estate in fee in May 1963. Some months previously there had been negotiations between the appellant and settlement board in regard to a suggested loan of sh. 32000 from the board to assist him buy the land in question from Mrs. Beckley, but these negotiations were abortive. The settlement board later acquired the land and the trustees of the board renewed negotiations with the appellant in regard to sale of the land to him paying the deposit of sh. 8000, the appellant was allowed to take possession of that land. A loan was negotiated and first installment of the purchase price was to become due for payment on March 31st but the appellant did not sign the acceptance of the offer until August .He had not paid any money since payment of the deposit. The land was never conveyed to the appellant and the trustees sought to terminate the appellant’s interest and to reposes the land. The appellant had consistently refused to vacate and later the land was sold to Mr. Robert Kiroku but the appellant was still in possession of that land.

It was held that “occupier in terms of Section 2 of the trespass act means the owner or the person lawfully in occupation of private land and private land means land which is owned or occupied by any person by virtue of private title. Proceedings under trespass act can only be brought by police or by owner or occupier of the land. Because the trustees had not conferred a freehold title on Mr. Kiroku, he was not the owner or occupier of that private land in question. The appeal was allowed and conviction quashed and sentence set aside.




It involves the immediate right to posses and signifies the lawful right to retain possession when one has it or one has acquired it i.e. once a person is entitled to immediate possession of land, he is deemed to have been in possession from the moment that his right to it is accrued.

Plaintiff’s possession of land relates back to the time when he first acquired the right to posses that land and is therefore deemed to have been in possession of it from that time.

He can therefore sue for acts of trespass while he was actually out of possession and it also provides foundation for the claim for damage suffered by a person as a result of having been kept out of possession of his land.

If A owns land which he sells to B passes before B has taken actual possession of the land and in the meantime C commits an act of trespass on the land , B may sue C for the trespass notwithstanding that he had not yet taken possession of that land when the act of trespass was committed. That means B’s title relates back to the time when he first became entitled to take possession i.e. the time he bought the land from A.



Intrusion into airspace at a relatively low height constitutes trespass, however, it’s now settled that land owners rights in airspace extends only to such a height as is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of land and structures on it.

It means then that an aircraft flying several hundred feet above a house is not trespass at common law, however, if the aircraft or anything from it falls upon the land or comes into contact with a structure on the land, it results into trespass no matter the height from which it fell.

Section 76(2) of the Civil Aviation Act states that if a hijacker flies an aircraft into a building the owner of the aircraft is liable. There is a proviso to that effect; that if the owner’s liability arises only by virtue of the section and if a legal liability to pay damages for the loss in question exists in some other person then the owner is entitled to be indemnified by that other person.

In Bensten v. Skynews and General ltd [1978] QB 479- The defendant used an overflying aeroplane to obtain photographs of Lord Bernstein’s country residence. Lord Bernstein claimed that in so doing the defendant was trespassing in his airspace and invading his right to privacy. The court held that the defendant was not liable for trespass. The rationale was “the problem is to balance the rights of an owner to enjoy the use of his land against the rights of the general public to take advantages of all that science now often in the use of airspace.


Fifty feet off the ground, the cross arms of the Alberta power transmission line protruded six feet over the Didow’s farm. The Didow objected that in addition to being unsightly, the lines attached to them would interfere with aerial spraying and seeding operations, the use of tall machinery and tree planting in the area to whomever the soil belongs, he owns the sky and to the depth. Didows argued that the cross arms constituted a trespass of their air space. The Alberta Court of Appeal agreed.


Is committed by him who places any material thing on the plaintiffs land or who allows such material to come into contact with or cross boundary of the plaintiff’s land. This type of trespass is similar to nuisance but the two are different in the following aspects:

v In trespass, injury is direct since it affects the plaintiff’s possession but in nuisance the injury is indirect because it is the plaintiffs comfort and convenience in the use and enjoyment of land that is affected rather than its possession.

v While trespass relates to possession of land, nuisance relates to the use or enjoyment of land i.e. in trespass possession of land is at stake, while in nuisance it is the use and enjoyment of the land that is at stake.



Is committed where there is physical contact with another person’s property on the land however slight. It includes acts of encroaching on the land or walking through it without authority, sitting on the plaintiffs fence, putting a hand through the plaintiffs window, abuse of right of entry i.e. a person authorized to enter premises for the purpose of repairing them becomes a trespasser when he picks and eats fruits on the premises without authority and throwing things on someone‘s land.


Plaintiff and the defendant occupied adjoining houses included within a building scheme. Restrictions were enforceable by either of them against the other. The material restriction was that at no point should any building be erected as a shop, warehouse or factory or any trade or manufacture be carried out.

Defendant was a jobbing builder and placed ladders, planks, sand against the wall of the plaintiff’s house. At the rear of the house, the defendant had erected a shed touching the plaintiff’s garden wall which he used as a store for builders fitting. Plaintiff brought an action alleging a technical trespass, damage by damp through the pointing being injured by these articles and breach of restrictive covenant by erection of a warehouse and carrying out trade.

Held: placing of the ladders and other articles against the wall was a technical trespass which had damaged the pointing and the plaintiff was entitled to the cost of repainting the wall.

Defendant was carrying on a trade within the meaning of the covenant, as the business of a jobbing builder involved the buying and selling of materials and plaintiff was entitled to an injunction.


Respondent had sued appellant for damages for trespass and for wrongful removal of livestock, cotton and Sh.12, 000 cash. Appellant admitted the trespass and the taking away of property which he stated he had returned with the exception of 3 cattle and one sheep, but he denied taking the shs. 12000 as alleged. He stated that the livestock and property were seized to recover the price of a tractor which the respondent had sold to the appellant while still subject to hire purchase agreement and which had been seized by the owner from appellant and he accordingly counter claimed Sh. 14950 which he had paid to the respondent towards the tractor. The judge gave judgment that appellant should pay sh. 12000 for the whole amount claimed and awarded him further Sh. 5000 as damages for trespass.


Is trespass committed by a person who having been originally authorized to enter upon the land, is subsequently asked to leave. Such a person then becomes a trespasser when he fails to leave the land within a reasonable time.

If a license is withdrawn, a person is not a trespasser during the reasonable time which he takes to leave the premises


The respondents were evacuees from the Gibraltar and occupied premises at an evacuee’s centre under license from the Ministry of Health. The respondents were licensees for valuable consideration in respect of the premises which they occupied and licenses extended to allow them to live in their flats, to have furniture of their own and which in fact they did and also to have their wives and families there .Differences arose between the respondents and officials at the ministry and the respondents were each given a week to evacuate the premises. They failed to leave and after an attempt to eject those proceedings were taken in the county court to obtain orders for possession. It was contended that the notices were invalid on ground that the time given to vacate the premises was unreasonably short hence licenses were not effectively revoked.

Held: the length of time to be given to licensees on the determination of the licenses must depend upon the circumstance of any particular case and in the present case, the time given was insufficient

Notice determining a license revokes the license immediately on service and the notice becomes operative on expiration of a reasonable time from the date of service. This is so even though the notice states a period of time for vacation of the premises which is held to be too short.


Any intrusion upon the subsoil is just as much trespass as entry upon the surface. The surface and the subsoil can be possessed by different persons. If A is in possession of the surface and B, the subsoil and I walk on the land that would result into trespass against A and not against B.

If I dig a hole vertically in the land, that would be trespass against both A and B. If I bore a tunnel from my land into B’s subsoil, that would be trespass against B only.

Even if the land owner has been deprived of ownership of minerals by statute, intrusions beneath the surface such as pipelines in order to obtain the minerals still amounts to trespass, though in such a case the quantum of damages will be very limited.



If the act constituting trespass remains without the trespasser doing anything to avoid it, there is said to be a continuing trespass. It arises for example where a trespasser chooses to remain on a plaintiffs land or fails to remove any matter from that land, which is causing trespass.

Where there is continuing trespass, the plaintiff can bring a number of actions against the defendant. This is because as long as the trespasser continues, the plaintiff continues to suffer and there is a fresh cause of action. IN HOLMES V WILSON[6]( the defendants erected buttresses to support a sinking road, necessitating trespass onto the claimants land. The claimant sued and recovered damages, but the defendant failed to remove the buttresses so the claimant sued again.

Transfer of that land by an injured party does not prevent transferee from suing the defendant for continuing trespass.

There is no trespass if the defendant merely omits to restore land to the same condition (apart from removing anything which he has put on the land) in which he found it i.e. if he fails to fill up a pit which he has dug on the neighbours land . He is only liable for the original digging and not for continuing trespass in allowing the pit to remain unfilled, however, he is liable for negligence if anyone falls into the pit. In CLEGG V DEARDEN[7]; a trespasser had broken through a wall mine and after the statute had the original trespass, water had run through the hole and injured the plaintiff. It was held in an action on the case that there could be no recovery because leaving a hole there was not a continuing trespass and that running of the statute had already barred the trespass together with its results.

Mistake is no defence to trespass. It will not avail the defendant that he innocently thought that he was on his own land


The defendant cut grass from the land which he believed belonged to him, but in fact belonged to the neighbor, the claimant. The court held that whether the defendant knew the title of facts or not was irrelevant: his act was voluntary and did cause loss that the claimant had suffered.

There is no liability if the entry is involuntary i.e. a person who is carried onto the land of the claimant by a 3rd party is not liable in trespass


Defendant was violently pursued into the claimant’s land who sought damages in the action for trespass to land. It was held that a trespass cannot be committed involuntarily and the action failed. There was trespass by the people who carried him there and not by the defendant.



Where a person has permission to enter land , either expressed or as implied by the property’s owner, then he won’t be held liable for trespass. Any member of the public has an implied license to approach premises with legitimate inquiry, even if that inquiry has nothing to do with the occupier’s interest. In this case, a police officer without a search warrant is in the same position as a member of the public. This defence exists unless the defendant has exceeded the terms of the license.

When the license is just bare (no consideration is offered by the defendant), the license can be revoked at any time. If the defendant takes more than reasonable time, she/he was given to move out, and then he/she is committing a trespass.

A contractual license is revoked only when

v There has been an expressed or implied time frame limit in the contract

v Demand for injunction to prevent breach of contract


Necessity is a defence to show that it was necessary for the defendant to enter the claimants land

Trespass may not arise where there is actual/perceived danger in relation to which steps are taken.

For example, in case of fire, one may get into another person’s land to prevent further harm


A young man broke into a gun shop and armed himself; the police fired a canister of CS gas into the shop so as to smoke out the young man. Unfortunately, the shop caught fire and the shop keeper sued for damages.

It was held that the police could rely on the defence of necessity because the boy was a clear threat to the public and since the police had not contributed to that problem, they were not liable. It was held that necessity was a defence provided that there was no negligence on the part of the defendant in contributing to the state of necessity, thus the action for trespass failed.


The defence of acquiesce or estoppels goes to encouragement or allowance of a party to believe something to his detriment.

Mere delay by the plaintiff in complaining the action of the defendant is not of itself sufficient to establish the defence of acquiesce or etoppel.

It must further be shown that the defendant had been misled to his detriment so that it would be unconscionable for the plaintiff to ascert his rights like in the case of Jones v. Stones


Acts which would otherwise be trespass are not so when justification is provided for by the law

Where defendant is legally authorized to enter onto the claimant’s land by statutory authority, he can’t be liable for trespass on land e.g. the police have powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to enter premises and search them. . However, abuse of the legal authority is punishable. When one had initial authority, then later did something unlawfull,it results into a doctrine known as abinitio

In ELIAS V PASMORE[11]: The police had lawfully entered the plaintiff’s residence to arrest a man. The police took some documents, some of which were taken unlawfully. It was held that the original entry was not trespass, but there was trespass to goods when they took the documents.


A person or claimant who agrees to a certain action cannot complain or sue.


The defendant employed a sprinkler system to protect the building from fire. The claimant also occupied the building and complained when she stock was damaged by water from the sprinklers.

It was held that the water supply benefited both the claimant and defendant and therefore there was no liability.



The court may order the defendant to move from the claimants land. It is a remedy to prevent further trespass. In cases of threatened trespass or where the trespass is of a continuing nature, the claimant may seek an injunction.


The person who is entitled to procession may request a trespasser to leave and if the trespasser refuses, may remove him from the land, using no more force than is reasonably necessary. However, if the force used in turning out a trespasser is excessive the person who used such force himself commits a trespass upon the person of the person removed.


The person entitled to possession can enter or re-enter the premises. He must do so in a peaceful manner subject to the common law rights to eject a trespasser.


If the trespass is trivial or there is no actual damage the damage will be nominal. If the damage is done to the land the measure of damage is usually to the diminution in value of the land, or such amount as will compensate the plaintiff for his loss. The cost of reinstatement for example rebuilding will sometimes be the correct measure. Exemplary damages may have been awarded where there has been arbitrary or unconstitutional trespass by a government official or where the defendant cynically disregards the plaintiff’s rights with the object of making a gain from his unlawful conduct.


The party in possession may use reasonable force to resist wrongful entry by trespasser e.g by erecting fences and putting on barbed wire fences. In cases of security dogs, he should have control over it and notify people about the dog in every entrance.


Was formerly called ejectment .It’s an action by which the possessor of land seeks a court order to recover it? It’s usually achieved by the claimant proving his /her title to land; he/she can now take action against the squatters.


This is usually an addition to the action for recovery of possession of land. They are consequential damages given to the claimant for the time he/she has been from that land. It aims at recovering the last use of property. An action lies for the damage which the claimant has suffered through being out of possession of land; this includes profits taken by the defendant during his occupation and damages for deterioration and the reasonable cost of getting possession.e.g. In the case of INVERUGIE INVESTMENTS LTD V HACKETT[13]The Privy Council was called upon to calculate mesne profits in unusual circumstance. The claimant had been unlawfully kept out of his property in the Bahamas for a period of 15 and half years. He was entitled to a reasonable rental value for the period based on the published rates at which the tour operators made ,”whole sale arrangements to use holiday accommodation” It was held that the plaintiff could recover a reasonable rent for every apartment in the hotel block the defendant had built. Though the defendant objected that the flats had not been fully occupied, Lord Lloyd held that it was not a matter of actual loss and hence the calculation of the total sum.


Is where a chattel is unlawfully on the claimants land and has caused actual damage, then the claimant may retain the chattel until the damage has been paid for. A football kicked through the window may be retained until the damaged window is paid for.


In most societies protection of individual’s bodily integrity is likely to rank high on the agenda of the interest worth protecting; hence one of the earliest remedies provided by the English law was for forcible wrongs against the person.

The essence of trespass to the person is that it provides a claimant’s protection against direct invasion of his bodily integrity. In 1959,it was established that in order to succeed in trespass, it was not enough for the claimant simply to prove a direct invasion of his bodily integrity. In Fowler v. Lanning[14]the plaintiff’s statement of claim alleged that on a certain date and at a certain place, the defendant shot the plaintiff and thus suffered injury. The defendant objected that this statement of claim disclosed no cause of action in that it did not allege that the shooting was intentional or negligent.

Diplock J held that to succeed in trespass, it was not enough to prove a direct act; the plaintiff had in addition to prove that the direct act was done intentionally or negligently. This was affirmed by LordDenning in the case of Letang v. Cooper[15]– While on holiday, in Cornwall, Mrs. Letang was sunbathing on a piece of grass where cars were parked. Mr. Cooper drove into the car park. He did not see her and ran into her legs injuring her. She claimed damages on both negligence and trespass to person.

In his opinion Lord Denning went ahead to state that when the injury is not inflicted intentionally, but negligently, then the only cause of action is negligence and not trespass. If it were trespass, it would be actionable without proof. Thus, trespass to the person is actionable per se.

Trespass to the person relates to direct and forcible injury to the person, Direct means that the injury must follow so closely on the act that it can be seen as part of the act. However, injuries caused by a car accident are not direct but are regarded as consequential. (Letang v. Cooper)

Forcible – used to describe any kind of threatened or actual physical interference with the person of 3another.

Injury –includes any infringement of personal dignity or bodily integrity. Actual physical harm is however not an essential ingredient of trespass to the person since the tort is actionable per se.

Trespass to the person

It has three components which may either occur together or separately: assault, battery and false imprisonment. In their definitions, these components incorporate the words intentional and direct.

The tort has various definitions;

According to Winfield and Jolowicz pg 71, assault is defined as an act of the defendant which causes the claimant reasonable apprehension of the infliction of battery on him by the defendant.

Gold LJ in Collins v Wilcock[16] defines assault as an act which causes another person to apprehend infliction of immediate, unlawful force on his person. An obvious example can be A pointing a loaded gun at B. In such a case by virtue of pointing the gun the claimant reasonably apprehends the infliction of an immediate battery.

Ingredients of the tort

Direct and intentional (as discussed above)


Conduct amounts to something which threatens the use of unlawful force. In addition to physical action, threats can also be conveyed verbally unlike in the past when threatening words could not amount to an assault. This has been attributed to by the rise of new means of communication e.g. telephone and email. where a verbal threat by these means can weigh the same as a gesture supported by threatening wordswhich can however have the opposite effect by making it clear that the assailant does not intend to carry out the threat (Turberville v. Savage[17]Tuberville put his hand upon his sword and said ‘If it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you.’ Savage later sued Tuberville for assault.

The court held that to be liable for assault at least one of the following must be present: 1. an act intending to cause harmful control to another person, or imminent apprehension, or 2. a third person put in apprehension if he believes the person can do damage. An assault exists even if the other party can defend against the action and the action is not inevitable. Mere threats of future harm are insufficient.

In this case the court held that the declaration of Tuberville was that he would not assault Savage at that point in time. To commit an assault there must be intention followed by an act. An assault is present if the fear is reasonable. The court held that in this case there was clearly no intention of assault.The intention as well as the act makes an assault.

Reasonable fear

The victim’s fear that the threat is likely to be carried out must be reasonable. This partly depends on a subjective test which looks at the victim’s view of the situation. In R v St George[18][the judge said that it is an assault to point a weapon at a person though not loaded, but so near that if loaded, it might do injury. However, if the victim knew that the gun was unloaded, any fear would be regarded as unreasonable.

The threat must be capable of being carried out at the time it is made. In cases of telephone threats, the House of Lords in R v. Ireland indicated that the fear should be that the assailant would be likely to turn up ‘within a minute or two’

If the defendant were to be prevented from carrying out the threat, it would still amount to assault if he was advancing with that intent. In Stephens v. Myers[19] [it was decided that if the D was advancing with the intent, then it amounted to assault. A similar decision was made in the case of Thomas v. National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area)[20]. It therefore arises that ability to carry out the threat must exist at the time the threat is made.

Assault can also be by means of verbal threat. Traditionally the use of threatening words alone could not amount to assault. R v. Meade and Belt[21][but in the modern day there are other forms of communication such as telephone and emails that can be used as channels for assault.


  • To throw water at a person is an assault but if any drops fall upon him it is battery.
  • Pulling a chair as a practical joke from somebody who is about to sit on it is an assault until he reaches the floor because as he is falling he reasonably expects that the withdrawal of the chair will result in harm to him. When he hits the floor and gets hurt, then it is a battery.


Abusive and threatening emails and text messages are the most recognized growing forms of assault. This area of law must be looked into since it is a prominent channel being used to commit assault.

According to Salmond and Heuston (p125) battery is the application of force to the person of another without lawful justification.

Goff LJ in Collins v Wilcock states that battery is the actual infliction of unlawful force on another person. He states that touching will only amount to a battery where it does not fall within the category of physical contact generally acceptable in the ordinary conduct of general life.



For there to be liability for battery, the touching must be intentional whether or not the D intended to cause injury, and if it is non-intentional, then it amounts to negligence. (Letang v. Cooper). If the D misses the person he intends to hit and he hits someone else, the doctrine of transferred malice is considered. A intending to hit B, actually hits C, C will have action against A as As’ intention to hit B is transferred to C.

Marube v. Nyamuro[22]

The appellant, an infant, sued through his father, for damages for the loss of his right eye after it was hit by a rope that the respondent, his teacher, was using to whip him. The appellant and other pupils gave evidence that he had suffered injury as a result of deliberate act of the respondent. Respondent denied battering and assaulting the appellant and stated that the injury had risen out of accident. It was held that the respondent was liable and was fined sh.30000.

(Livingstone v. Ministry of Defence[23])– a soldier in Northern Ireland fired a baton round targeting a rioter but he missed and hit the claimant instead. It was held that the soldier had intentionally applied force to the claimant.


The battery must be the direct result of the D’s intentional act. Scott v. Shepherd[24]shepherd threw a lighted squib into a market house and it landed on the stall of a ginger bread seller. To prevent damage to the stall, Willis picked it up and threw it across the market. Ryal, to save his own stall, picked it up and threw it away. It struck the claimant in the face and exploded, blinding him in one eye. The D intended to scare someone although he did not intend to hurt the particular person who was actually injured, however he was held liable in battery. The force applied does not have to be personal contact e.g. in Pursell v. Horn[25]– Where the D threw water over the claimant. In Nash v. Sheen[26]– the claimant had gone to the D’s hairdressing salon where she was to receive a ‘permanent wave’ D was held liable in battery.

There must be an intentional touching or contact by the D which must be proved to be a hostile touching. Wilson v. Pringle[27]– A School boy admitted that he had pulled a bag which was over the shoulder of another boy making him fall and get injured. Summary judgment on the basis of battery was entered for the claimant. The school boy’s act of pulling the bag was merely a prank, the necessary element of hostility was lacking. This was expounded in Rv. Brown[28]Unlawful touching can also be described as unlawful. Though there is the issue of directness of touching, that is the touching must be applied directly from the defendant, case law dating back over the centuries just shows how widely courts are prepared to stretch the meaning of direct. In Gibbons vPepper[29]the defendant whipped a horse so that it bolted and ran down the claimant. The defendant was liable in battery for claimant’s injury.


ü Lawful authority

A person committing assault and/or battery and has legal authority for the action cannot be liable for that act. The statutes give this authority to;

The powers of police officers are provided for in the statutes and, provide that they act within the scope of those powers, they cannot be charged with trespass to the person. If the action goes beyond what is permitted, then a police officer may be liable. Collins v. Wilcock[30]a police officer needed to obtain a woman’s name and address in order to caution her for soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. The officer detained the woman by holding her by the elbow. The woman scratched the officer and was charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of her duty. The police officer’s action went beyond the generally acceptable conduct of touching a person to engage his or her attention. It therefore follows that the officer’s action constituted a battery on the woman. Reasonable force may be used to make an arrest but that force must be reasonable and proportionate to the crime being prevented.

  • Health professionals treating people with mental illness

The mental health act 1983 permits treatment for mental disorder to be given to patients who have been compulsorily detained and treatment may be given without the consent of the patient.

ü Consent

Where the claimant has consented to the actions of the D, he lacks any cause of action. Consent may be express or implied. In sports, where a person takes part in a contact sport, then he has consented to the touching which occurs in the playing of the game within the rules. Simms v. Leigh Rugby Football Club[31] If the touching is not permitted within the rules, then it is unlawful and the D may be liable for trespass to the person. In medical treatment, consent must be real i.e. the victim must understand what it is that they are consenting to, for the D to be exempted from liability. A person with capacity of adult years and sound mind has an absolute right to give or withhold consent to treatment. In Ms B v. An NHS Hospital Trust[32]– The claimant was completely paralyzed, able to move her head very slightly and to speak. She was being kept alive on a ventilator and had no hope of any recovery. She faced the rest of her life like this and informed those caring for her that she wanted the ventilator turned off. She was effectively saying that she withdrew her consent to the treatment. The doctors who had been caring for her for over a year found it impossible to accept her decision and argued that she lacked capacity to make her own decisions. The claimant sued for a declaration that she had the necessary capacity and that her continued treatment was a trespass to her person. The Defendants were therefore liable for trespass during the time the claimant had been treated against her will and a small sum by way of damages for battery was awarded. She later went to another hospital where her decision was respected.

ü Necessity

Where it is necessary to prevent harm to others then trespass to the person may be justified. It can also be used in medical cases to justify treatment to a person without capacity e.g. in cases of emergency. F v. West Berkshire Health Authority[33]– F aged 36 had serious mental disability and the mental capacity of a child of four. She had formed a sexual relationship with another patient and the doctors were concerned that pregnancy would be disastrous for her so they sought for a declaration from the court for an operation for her sterilization. It was held that it was in F’s best interests to be able to maintain the sexual relationship hence the operation should take place.

ü Parental authority

A parent will not be be liable for assault or battery for inflicting punishment on a child if the force used is reasonable and is proportionate to the wrong committed by the child. The child must understand the purpose of punishment which must be proportionate to the wrong committed by the child.

ü Self-defence

A person is entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence or to protect others provided that the force used is proportionate to the danger. Cockcroft v. Smith[34][ – There was a scuffle in court between a lawyer and a clerk where the clerk thrust his fingers towards the lawyer’s eyes so the lawyer bit off one of the clerks fingers. It was held not to be proportionate response to the threat.

It occurs when a person is unlawfully restrained, whether by arrest or confinement, or prevented from leaving any place.

It is an act of the D which directly and intentionally (or possibly negligently) causes the confinement of the claimant within an area delimited by the D. (street on torts)

False imprisonment is actionable per se and must result from the direct act of the defendant


Knowledge of the claimant

False imprisonment can also occur even if the victim is unaware of it at the time. According to Lord Atkin, a person can be imprisoned while he is asleep, in a state of drunkenness, while unconscious or while he is a lunatic. In the case of Merring V Grahame-white aviation co ltd[35],-the claimant was brought to his employer’s office to be interviewed in connection with theft. Two guards had been stationed outside to prevent him from leaving and when the claimant found out, he brought an action for false imprisonment. Lord Atkin said,” it appears to me that a person could be imprisoned without his knowledge…… is quite unnecessary to go on to show that in fact the man knew that he was imprisoned” the defendants were therefore held liable for false imprisonment.

However, if a person is unaware that he has been falsely imprisoned and has suffered no harm, he can normally expect to cover not more than nominal damages

The character of the D’s act

There must be total or complete restraint such that there is no means of escape, if there is reasonable means of escape, the restraint cannot amount to false imprisonment. False imprisonment can also occur even if the victim is not aware at the time. Meering v. Grahams-White Aviation Co. Ltd[36].

False imprisonment need not be in a prison, however, how large the area of confinement can be largely depends on the circumstances so that the boundaries of the area of confinement must have been fixed by the defendant as stated by Lord Coleridge J in Bird v. Jones;

‘Some confusion seems……… to arise from confounding imprisonment of the body with mere loss of freedom…. Imprisonment…. Includes the notion of restraint within some limits defined by a will or power exterior to our own.’

Lord Denning however gave a dissenting judgment;

‘As long as I am prevented from doing what I have a right to do, of what importance is it that I am permitted to do something else?… If I am locked in a room, I am not imprisoned because I might effect my escape through a window, or because I might find an exit dangerous or inconvenient to myself, as by wading through water…..?’

If the means of escape causes a risk of personal injury or if it is otherwise unreasonable for the victim to escape, then liability for false imprisonment arises. However the barriers to the means of escape need not be physical e.g. in a case where a commissioner in Lunacy wrongfully used his authority to dissuade the claimant from leaving his office, he was liable for false imprisonment.

Once a restraint has been effected by an assertion of authority then it is enough for liability for false imprisonment to emerge e.g. restraint on movement in the street by a threat of force that intimidates a person to compliance without touching the victim is false imprisonment. (street on torts pg 249) once there is lawful detention then changes in the conditions of his detention will not render the detention unlawful e.g. in the case of prisoners being detained in unsanitary cells, this cannot be termed as false imprisonment.


Defendant’s state of mind

In this tort, the D must intend to do an act which will substantially effect the confinement. However there is no need to prove malice because even where the D confines the claimant in good faith, he is still liable for the intentional confinement of the claimant. In Rv. Governor of Brockhill Prison[37], – in this case a prisoner governor who calculated the claimant’s day of release in accordance with the law as understood at the time of her conviction was held liable when a subsequent change of the law meant that the prisoner should have been released 59 days earlier. An honest mistake whether negligently made or not as to the right to continue detention does not excuse a trespass to the person. In a similar case Quinland v. Governor of Swalesdale Prison[38]– there was a judicial error that increased the sentence by three months longer than it ought to have been causing the claimant to be detained longer than it should have been. The C.A. stated that since the prisoner was unduly detained by virtue of a court order, there would be no remedy other than the correction of the arithmetical error that had been made in adding together the various periods of confinement attributable to the various offences of which the claimant had been convicted. Negligence should be enough to result to liability for false imprisonment for example where a person locks a door while being negligently unaware of the presence of somebody in the room.


ü Lawful arrest

Any lawful arrest made in accordance with the police and criminal evidence act 1984 cannot amount to false imprisonment. Any private citizen making citizen’s arrest should be wary as a private citizen has protection if an arrestable offence has actually been or is being committed by the person arrested and the police have been involved. A police officer does not lose the protection even where the arrest is mistaken provided that it was reasonable.

ü Detention for medical purposes

The lawful detention of persons suffering from mental disorder is provided for in the Mental Health Act 1983, but must be in accordance with the provisions and if the contrary happens then there is false imprisonment. In cases where a person is ill and in need of treatment but the illness does not meet the criteria for compulsory detention.


The rule in Wilkinson v. Downtown[39]

The rule applies to intentional infliction of physical harm other than trespass to the person. In this case the claimant was told by the Defendant, who knew it to be untrue, that her husband had been seriously injured in an accident. Believing this, she suffered nervous shock resulting in serious physical illness, and was held to have a cause of action. Wright J held: the practical joker in the case itself was liable on basis that he had ‘willfully done an act calculated to cause physical harm to plaintiff basing on theProtection from Harassment Act 1997.

Since this is not a form of trespass the claimant must prove actual loss. And liability is imposed;

  • Where a person intentionally or recklessly inflicts emotional distress upon another.
  • The defendant’s conduct is extreme and outrageous.
  • The harm intended is severe
  • The actual resulting emotional harm is also severe

Hence the principle is treated as a separate complementally form of liability covering cases of intentionally but indirectly caused physical harm.

In Kariuki v. East African Industries Ltd and another[40] the plaintiff an employee of the first defendant was arrested and later charged with the offence of stealing, being a servant, contrary to section 281 of the penal code. His arrest was as a result of investigations done by the first and the second defendant, who were also employees. The plaintiff was remanded for over three months following an order of the court and after trial he was acquitted of the charge. He instituted a suit in the High Court alleging wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution by the defendants. The court held that a person instituting legal proceedings before a court against another is not liable for the tort of false imprisonment where the imprisonment is as a result of a court order hence the defendants could not be liable for false imprisonment, however the plaintiff was awarded general damages amounting to 1000 shillings.

In the case of Gitau v. Attorney General[41], the plaintiff commenced proceedings against the Attorney General on behalf of the police department for assault, battery, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. He had been arrested and charged with the offence of being drunk and disorderly to which he pleaded not guilty and was admitted to bail. When the case came up for trial, the magistrate dismissed the same without calling on the defence. The plaintiff complained that while in custody he had been denied the chance to speak to his wife, held incommunicado for 30 hours at the police custody, no change of clothes, a mug of tea and a piece of loaf in the morning was his food for the whole day and a mat as his bedding.

The plaintiff was wrongfully arrested since he was not drunk as he was collecting cigarettes from his car. For wrongful arrest and subjection to humiliation and fright ordeal, he was awarded Kshs. 250,000 damages for false imprisonment and a further Kshs. 10,000 exemplary damage.


The action for trespass to goods affords a remedy where there has been an intentional or careless direct interference with goods in the claimants’ possession at the time of the trespass, whether that is by taking the goods from him, or by damaging the goods without removing them. It is to be noted that it is of no help where the relevant interference with the goods was indirect. There can also not be an action in trespass where the goods were not in the possession of the claimants.


  1. Conversion.
  2. Trespass to chattels.


  • Trespass cannot exist if the interference is indirect. Therefore it is actionable per se, as per the dictum of Lord Blanesburg in the case of William Leitch V Leydon[42] It supported the view that trespass is always actionable per se.
  • The claimant must be in actual possession of the goods at the time of the interference. Possession connotes the power (factum) of exercising physical control and the intention to exercise such powers on his own.

Lord Esher in the case of Johnson V Diprose[43] said…’the plaintiff in an action of trespass has the present possession of goods, either actual or constructive or a legal right to the immediate possession…’

Generally, trespass to goods can include:


  1. Moving goods from one place to another.
  2. Bringing ones person into contact with goods.
  3. Directing missile at another’s goods.
  4. Taking goods out of possession of another.


1) Where the goods were assigned as security for loan upon trust to permit the assignor to remain in possession until the repayment, the assignee could sue in trespass while the goods were still in possession of the assignor

2) The title of the executor or the administrator relates back to the death of the deceased and is entitling them to sue for trespass committed between the day of death and that of the grant.


Conversion involves an intentional dealing with ‘goods’ that is seriously inconsistent with the possession or right to immediate possession of another person.

The main elements of the tort are:

Goods which are subject to some interference.

  • The interference must be inconsistent with the rights of the owner.
  • The claimant must be in possession of the goods.
  • It protects the claimant’s interest in the dominion and control of goods.



Interest of the claimant.

The claimant must have either possession or the right to immediate possession.

Who can sue?

a) Bailee: it describes a legal relationship whose physical possession of personal / chattels is transferred from bailor to bailee who subsequently has rightful possession. Where bailment is created at will the baillee can sue the 3rd party in conversion since he/she is deemed to have immediate right to possession.

b) Lien au pledge: if goods are entrusted to another person to carry out certain services i.e. repairs; the person has acquired lien over it, right to retain goods until he is paid for the service, therefore has an action against the third party in conversion.

c) Buyer: in the sale of goods the buyer has right to immediate possession after paying for goods and can therefore sue in conversion. Hollins v Fowler [1875]

Facts of the case: Fowler and company, the claimants, sold thirteen bales of cotton to Bayley. Bayley never paid Fowler, but sold the cotton to the defendants, Hollins & Co., and they sold it to Micholls & Co. who spun it into yarn. Thus due to the fraud of Bayley, the value of the cotton had been obstructed, and the question was which of the two innocent parties (the person who sold the cotton to the rogue or the person who bought it from him) should bear the loss. It was held that the defendants, the buyers, were liable for conversion.

d) Licenses: the license holder may sue in conversion i.e. Northern V Bowden[44]The plaintiff had a license to prospect certain land and the defendant without permission carried away some of the soil in this land. The plaintiff was entitled to maintain action for its conversion.

e) Finder: the maxim “finders’- keepers” is the rule that causation is sufficient to ground a claim in conversion. Someone who finds a chattel and keeps it and protects his right to do so against a third party.

Parker V British Airways Board[45]

The claimant found a gold brooch on the floor of the executive lounge at Heathrow Airport. He handed it over to the British Airways Board in order for them to find the rightful owner. They challenged to keep the bracelet for themselves and the finder brought an action for conversion. The claimant was entitled to the brooch and the court of Appeal held that the occupier of a land upon which goods are found will have a better right than the finder if:

I. The finder is a trespasser to the land.

II. The property is in or attached to the land.

III. The occupier of the land on which the property is found has prior to the finding…’manifested an intention to exercise control over the land and the things which may be upon or in it…’


  • Taking goods or disposing them which include the following-:

To steal or seize goods under a legal process without justification

To move goods from one place to another which deprives the claimant the use is conversion.

To make claimant to hand over goods under duress as in the case of Sullivan V Alimohamed Osman[46].

Facts of the case:

The claimant instituted proceedings against the defendant claiming that on 5th September 1957, the defendant without any authority or consent of the plaintiff, wrongfully and willfully interfered with and exercised control over the plaintiffs motor lorry by wrongly ordering the driver to drive unlawfully to the police station. As a result, the plaintiff, incurred losses and damages in that he was deprived of the use of the vehicle in his transport business for 49 days. The trial judge awarded Kshs. 500 as general damages and rejected the claim for special damages.


  • Destroying or altering goods.

To destroy goods is to convert them, if the destruction is intentional. The quantum of harm constituting destruction for this purpose is a question of degree but mere damage is not a conversion.

A change of identity not amounting to destruction is also enough such as drawing out part of a vessel of liquor and filling it up with water.

If goods are used for a purpose which eliminates their utility as goods in their original form for instance making a fur coat from animal skins is conversion. It is however not conversion to bottle another’s wine in order to preserve it.

To use goods as one’s own is ordinarily to convert them. However, a mere misuse by a bailee unaccompanied by any denial of title is not a conversion although it may constitute some other tort

  • Receipt, Disposition and Delivery.

Voluntarily to receive goods in consummation of a transaction which is intended by the parties to give to the recipient some proprietary rights in the goods may be a conversion actionable by the owner.

If however the defendant receives goods in good faith for the purpose of storage or transport, he does not commit conversion because there is no assertion of a proprietary interest in the goods. Receipt of goods by way of pledge is conversion if the delivery is conversion.

In relation to disposition and delivery, there is generally no conversion where a person agrees to sell goods to which he has no title, but does not transfer possession of them. This is because bargain and sale are void if the seller has no right in the goods. On the other hand a person who without lawful authority disposes of goods with the intention of transferring the title to another and does deliver the goods thereby commits a conversion. A sale and a pledge may constitute such a disposition.

  • Refusal to surrender goods on demand.

A refusal to surrender goods upon reasonable and lawful demand is a conversion. In particular this covers the situation where the possession of the defendant ` originally lawful. Even if the defendant no longer has possession at the time of the demand and refusal, it is no defense for him to prove that prior to the accrual of the claimants title, he wrongfully parted with them. The defendant, on the other hand, may postpone surrender until he has had a reasonable time in which to confirm the title of the claimant or, if he is an employee, to consult with his employer.

Factors which may be relevant include: the time of the demand, the expense and the inconvenience of immediate compliance, the knowledge on the part of the defendant of the claimants title and of his identity and whether the defendant has adequately conveyed to the claimant the grounds for his temporary refusal. In order to prevent the defendant from setting up facts which would otherwise have justified a refusal, an estoppel may be issued.

Ngambo Estate and Saw Mills Ltd V Smith Saw Mills (Tanganyika Ltd)[47] Facts of the case:

The appellant, Ngambo Estate, filed a suit against the respondents for general damages for obstructing public right way, and for trespass and conversion of timber. They claimed thet between January and November 1950, the respondents trespassed upon their estates and there in cut and fell 21 soft trees (mvule) and by obstructing the road therein prevented them from transporting the trees which rendered useless after rotting. On the conversion issue, the defendant through their agents between 28th October and 15th November, wrongfully removed the trees on claim of having purchased but on oral demand they agreed to return, but they never returned. The Court of Appeal found for the claimant in the retrial of conversion of timber, but dismissed the claims of obstructions.

Misdelivery by carrier is conversion whether or not his mistake was an innocent act or not.

An action lies in conversion for loss or destruction of goods which the bailee has allowed to happen in breach of his own duty to the bailor.

Conversion as between co-owners

where the defendant without authority of the author co-owner destroys goods, disposes them or does anything to cause a destruction of the other interest in goods is liable in conversion, provided for by Section 10(1)(a) of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.

A co-owner cannot however be sued for conversion if he merely makes use of the common property in a reasonable way. The law requires a destruction of the goods or an equivalent of it. It is also no defense if the defendant without the permission of the co-owner purports to dispose of the goods in such a manner as would give a good title to the entire property in the goods if he were acting with the


The major impact of the Torts Act of 1977 was to rationalize the remedies available to claimants suing in conversion, both in relation to the damages which may be awarded and in making provision for specific return of the goods by way of orders for delivery.

  1. At common law, the claimant with a limited interest in the goods could normally recover their full value from a third party.
  2. The claimant in conversion is entitled to be compensated to the extent of the value to him of the goods of which he has been deprived. This will often appropriately be the market value of the goods. Where a negotiable instrument or other document ordinarily representing a chose in action is


The defences available are;

  • Statutory authority
  • Necessity
  • Volenti or consent
  • Jus tertii

Statutory authority-the police commit no trespass to goods when they exercise their lawful powers of search and seizure as they have a defence of statutory authority.

Necessity– this defence provides that it is lawful to interfere with or damage goods in order to avert immediate danger to people or property, as long as the interference is reasonable in the circumstances. The degree of interference or damage must however be balanced against the threatened harm.

In Cresswell V Sirl (1948), the defendant was responsible for shooting the claimants dog, which had been worrying the defendants pregnant sheep. Although the dog was no0t attacking the sheep at the time, it was held that shooting it was justified by the threatened harm, and therefore lawful.


Volenti or consent.

Consent to trespass may be implied from the claimants conduct.

In Arhtur V Anker (1996), a company which clamped a car parked on private land was held to have a defence of consent. Notices displayed prominently had warned that anyone parking without authorization would be clamped, and by parking there, the claimant was deemed to have accepted that risk. The court of appeal said that in order to be protected by this defence, the defendant had to prove that the claimant was aware of the consequences of parking her car on the land concerned, and this meant establishing that the claimant had seen and understood the warning sign. This did not mean that the claimant necessarily had to read all the details, seeing the notice and realizing what it was about could be enough, even if the claimant had not bothered to read it properly and find out exactly what would happen to cars parked on that land.

Jus tertii– the Torts Act of 1977 provides that there is a defence where someone other than the claimant or defendant has a better right to the goods.


  1. 1. Law of Tort by P.S.A Pillai, 9th Edition.
  2. 2. Complete Tort Law by S.I Strong and Liz Williams.
  3. 3. Tort Cases and Materials, 6th Edition by Martin Matthews, Jonathan Morgan and Colm O’ Cinneide.
  4. 4. Unlocking Torts, 3rd Edition by Chris Turner and Sue Hodge
  5. 5. Kenya Law Reports
  6. 6. All England Law Reports









[6] 1839)10 Ad and El 503

[7] [1848]12 QB 576 at 601

[13] (1995)1WLR 713


[15] (1964)2 ALL ER 929 CA

[37] ex p Evans (No.2) [2001]2 AC 19

[40] Civil case No. 1414 [1980],

[43] (1893) 1 Q.B 512, 515

[44][1855]11 ex 70


[46] (1959) E.A Criminal appeal number 13 of 1959

[47] 1957 EA CA 537


In this essay, I will start of by discussing what is the meaning of trespass to persons and three type of trespass, which are assault, battery and false imprisonment. These three types of trespass to person must have a few of elements in order to establish. Therefore I will explain the elements and emphasis on intention of each trespass to person. Besides, I will give cases and examples for easy understanding. After that, I will discuss whether intention still important nowadays and whether intention necessary to establish the tort of trespass to persons? Lastly I will conclude the essay with my own opinion. Trespass to persons means that there is an intentional act that interfere the plaintiff’s person or his body. Trespass simply means no more than “wrong” and trespass cases will usually deal in the local courts.

By 1250 the royal writ of trespass had acquired two formal requirement which are the defendant acted vi et armis (with force and arms) and contra pacem (against the King’s peace). Vi et armis means that the claimant can claimed that he or she suffer injuries by the defendant’s act which is with force and arms. For the second requirement, the royal court will only decides on the case that the force was against the King’s peace. Trespass to person are actionable without prove of damage which is actionable per se. This mean that the plaintiff does not need to prove the damage or injury suffered in order to make a claim. Therefore civil rights and person’s dignity is protected. However, there are three types of trespass to person, which are assault, battery and false imprisonment. These types of trespasses can be established if the elements of the trespass are fulfilled.


“Assault is an act of the defendant which cause the claimant reasonable apprehension of the infliction of a battery on him by the defendant”. Assault will not cause the plaintiff suffered damage but will lead the plaintiff to apprehend the application of force. For example if I point a gun at you, I have committed an assault this is because you are made to think that you are in imminent danger of being attacked. In another situation if the gun is unloaded, I will also commit an assault – “you do not know that, and I have every reason to apprehend battery”.


In order for the claimant to claim for assault, he or she must prove that the defendant had the intention. This is the basic requirement of the tort and here signifies that the defendant intended the claimant to apprehend reasonable force would be used or was reckless as the consequences of his or her actions. Words alone can amount to an assault. “There is old authority that words by themselves cannot amount to an assault”. However, this statement is overruled by R v Constanza which the court held that words alone and threat made by a stalker would amount to a criminal assault if there consist of intention. Besides, ‘A threatening act which would amount to an assault can be preventing by the words which are spoken at the same time’. In Turberville v Savage, the defendant put his hand on his sword and said ‘If it were not assize-time, I would not take such language from you.’ The court held that the defendant’s statement did not reflect immediate apprehension to the claimant.

Defendant did not have the intention to commit an immediate battery therefore the claimant cannot claim that there was an assault. Furthermore, silence phone calls also amount to assault. Such as in the case of R v Ireland , the defendant made silence malicious phone calls to three difference women, he was convicted under s.47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861. He tried to appeal but his appeal his dismissed. The House of Lord held that silence would amount to an assault and psychiatric injury can amount to bodily harm. Although the claimant suffered no damage but the claimant reasonably believed that oral threat would be carried out in future.

Apprehension of harm

Therefore besides intention, the claimant must have reasonable apprehension of harm. In Stephen v Myers, defendant had approached the claimant threatening violence but was stopped by the third party seated next to defendant. It seems that the defendant had the intention to hit the claimant but the court held that not every threat consisted of assault. In this case, it was not reasonable that defendant could reach the claimant therefore no assault can be claim.

Capability to carry out the threat

Can the defendant inflict immediate and direct harm on the claimant? The test is objective: would a reasonable man, who is in the plaintiff’s position, feel reasonable fear that there is a threat of immediate force upon himself? This can be explain in the case of Thomas v National Union of Miners (South Wales Area), the court held that it is impossible for the striking miners to threat the other miners who were transported by the bus and observed by a line of police. Therefore the defendant did not constituted an assault.


“Battery may be defined as the intentional and direct application of force to another person without that person’s consent. This touching need not necessarily involve violence”. “Same as assault, battery is actionable per se, the claimant does not need to show that they were caused any injury or damage. Unwanted contact or touching is enough.” If one person were acting intentionally to cause apprehension of contact to another person would be considered as battery.


For battery, the threat must be intentional, it can be either the defendant intend or not intend to cause the injury. In the case Letang v Copper, the plaintiff was negligently run over by the defendant’s motor when she was sunbathing in the grounds of a Cornish hotel. She sued the defendant for trespass to person but unsuccessful. As Lord Denning explained ‘… we divided the causes of action now according as the defendant did injury intentionally or unintentionally. If one man intentionally applies force directly to another, the plaintiff has a cause of action in… trespass to person… If he does not inflict injury intentionally, but only unintentionally, the plaintiff has no cause of action today in trespass. His only cause of action is in negligence.’ If at first, the threat is unintentional but the defendant intend to apply force after that then battery will be committed.

For example in the case of Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the court held that the defendant was negligently drove on to the policeman’s foot, but he was liable for battery when he refused to move the car until the policeman shouted get off his foot several time. Can intention be transferred? Yes, there is doctrine of transferred malice. This applied when then intention of the defendant was to hit A but misses and hits B. In the case of Livingstone v Ministry of Defence , a soldier in Northern Ireland fired a baton round targeting a rioter.

He missed and hit the claimant instead. The court held that the intention of the soldier had been transferred to the claimant. In Malaysia law, it stated that if the act of torture were committed in a group, intention would be evident. For example in the case of Abd Malek bin Hussin v Borhan bin Hj daud & ors, all the police officers that had carried out the political detention of the claimant were considered having the intention together.


In order to claim for battery, the defendant must have directly and voluntarily applied force contacted the plaintiff’s body. The force applied by the defendant must be directly. This will be clear by giving example such as if A pushes B into a hole, that is battery but if A digs a hole and B falls into it, this is not a battery. Besides the defendant must act voluntarily. In Gibbons v Pepper, the defendant was riding a horse and someone hit its back. The horse bolted and collided the plaintiff. The defendant was not liable because he did not carry out the act voluntarily. However, the contact must be hostility. This is supported in Lord Goff’s view in Re F, “… Any touching of the body without lawful excuse, capable of amounting to a battery and a trespass …” In Wilson v Pringle, Court of Appeal held that because the act of the young defendant is hostility therefore it will amount to battery.


Touching someone without his or she consent will be considered as battery. However, there are also some exceptions such as tapping a person’s shoulder in order to get attention. In Nash v Sheen, the plaintiff suffered skin allergic due to the defendant use the tone rinse on her hair without her consent. This was held to be a battery. In Malaysia case Tiong Pik Hiong v Wong Siew Gieu, the claimant was hit and her face was scratched by the defendant because of the suspicious relationship of the claimant and the defendant’s husband. Therefore she was liable for battery.

False Imprisonment

“In Termes de la Lay, false imprisonment is defined as the restriction of a person’s freedom of movement which mean that it is an intentional detention to another person without authorized of law.” False imprisonment is a strict liability; mean that the plaintiff does not have to prove the intention of the defendant in order to claim for false imprisonment. In this circumstance, the false imprisonment must be caused by the deliberate act.


The defendant must have the intention to restraint the person and breach of duty to release them. This will be the most basic element to prove. In W Elphinstone v Lee Leng San, the court held that the defendant restrained the claimant carelessly, therefore it couldn’t be held to be false imprisonment. The intention of the defendant is the most important thing to consider which said to be prerequisite. However, House of Lord changed this view and held that false imprisonment is a tort of strict liability, thus intention is immaterial. In contrasting case of R v Governor of Brockhill Prison, the defendant calculated the plaintiff releasing date wrongly based on the old guideline and caused the claimant spent extra days in the prison. The court held that the defendant was liable for false imprisonment although he had no intention.

Restraint must be in total

Unlawful restraint would be considered as false imprisonment if the restraint is in total and there is no mean of escape. If there were a way to escape for example another alternative route or another door inside the room then it would be amount to false imprisonment. In Bird v Jones, the defendant had enclosed the footway with fence for viewing the boat race event. As usual, the plaintiff used the footway was prevented by the defendant. The court held that there is no false imprisonment by the defendant because there is an alternative route. However, if a person is not in total restraint and the only way to escape is at the risk of injury then it will still amount to false imprisonment.

Knowledge of detention by claimant

False imprisonment can be carried out without the plaintiff awareness at the material time. This went further in judgement of Lord Atkin in Meering v Grahame “… it appears to me that a person could be imprisoned without his knowing it. I think a person can be imprisonment while he is asleep, while he is in a state of drunkenness, while he is unconscious, and while he is a lunatic.” However in Murray v Ministry of Defence, the plaintiff was unaware that she was being false imprisonment. In this case the court held that if she is unaware and suffered no harm then she can only claim for nominal damages.

Condition detention

There will not be a false imprisonment if someone is prevent from leaving the premises because he will not fulfill a reasonable condition subject to which he entered them. In Robinson v Balmain Ferry Co Ltd, the plaintiff claimed that the refusal to release him from the defendant’s wharf unless he pay 1 penny for the exit fee is considered as false imprisonment. But the court held that the charge was reasonable and stated as a condition at the notice board.


Is intention necessary to establish all these type of trespass? For all the intentional torts, there are two types of intention. “First one is that the person know that the consequences of his acts and wishes for those consequences to befall the plaintiff… Secondly, a man whose conduct if foreseeable to give rise to some infringement of the plaintiff interest is said to have the intention to commit the act in question.” The importance of the intention will be based on jurisdiction. In some cases where there is no intention of the defendant then negligence will be able to sustain for trespass to person. Therefore nowadays, intention in trespass is not so important especially when the liability of the defendant is determined by the objective test. However, this seems to be complex and difficult to distinguish, when can negligence be amount to trespass to person? One example of the case of Sayer v Harlow Urban District Council, the plaintiff accidentally locked in the public cubicle because of the handle is missing, the court held that there is no false imprisonment.

In contrasting case of R v Governor of Brockhill Prison, although there is negligence made by the defendant but the court still held that there is false imprisonment. In conclusion, intention will be necessary to establish the tort of trespass but to some extent such as when negligence is established. However, the intention of the defendant will still be the first thing to consider in the torts of trespass. This is because without proving of intention then floodgates will definitely happen. It will be more complex compare to using other aspects such as direct application or force. Therefore, it will be the best if the court tries to examine with all the elements in order to find out the real causes of the case. This will achieve the real objective of law, which is to provide fairness and justice.


Mark Lunney and Ken Oliphant Tort Law, Text and Materials (4th edn, Oxford University Press, 2010) Tony Weir, A Casebook on Tort (10th, Sweet & Maxwell, 2004) Catherine Elliot & Frances Quinn, Tort Law (9th edn, Pearson Education Limited, UK 2013) Nicholas J. McBride and Roderick Bagshaw, Tort Law (4th, Pearson,) Chris Turner and Sue Hodge, Unlocking Torts (3rd, Routledge, 2010) Winfield & Jolowicz, Tort (17th, Sweet & Maxwell, London 2006) Norchaya Talib, Law of Tort in Malaysia (3rd edn, Sweet & Maxwell Asia, Kuala Lumpur 2006)

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