Common law offence of false imprisonment
Common law offence of false imprisonment

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Common law offence of false imprisonment
  • The offence of false imprisonment
  • Elements of the offence
  • Restraint of a victim's freedom of movement
  • ‘Unlawful’ detention or imprisonment
  • Restraint in pursuance of a court order
  • Lawful restraint
  • Lawful power of arrest
  • Intention or recklessness
  • Meaning of restraint
  • More...

The offence of false imprisonment

False imprisonment is a common law offence but it is more common as a civil action in tort (see Practice Note: False imprisonment).

It is triable only on indictment. It may be classified in class 2A, 2B or 3 in accordance with the Criminal Practice Directions.

The offence is closely related to the common law offence of kidnapping. The difference is that unlike the offence of kidnapping, there is no requirement to prove that the victim was 'taken and carried away'. (R v Hutchins [1988] Crim LR 379 (not available in Lexis®Library))

See Practice Note: Common law offence of kidnapping.

Elements of the offence

In R v Rahman (1985) 81 Cr App Rep 349 (not reported by LexisNexis®), it was held that, on a charge of false imprisonment, the prosecution must prove:

  1. the unlawful

  2. intentional or reckless

  3. restraint of a victim's freedom of movement from a particular place

Restraint of a victim's freedom of movement

False imprisonment at common law involves an act of the defendant which directly and intentionally (or possibly negligently) causes the confinement of the claimant within an area delimited by the defendant. To amount to a criminal offence, the act requires a distinct mental element (see further below).

The methods which might be used to keep a person in such an area are many and various. They could include physical barriers, such as

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