On appeal from: [2018] EWCA Civ 1260

This appeal was about the law on damages for false imprisonment. It required the Supreme Court to consider the meaning of imprisonment at common law and whether this should be aligned with the concept of deprivation of liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The claimant was released from immigration detention on bail in October 2013. He was subsequently subject to curfew restrictions from 3 February 2014 until 14 July 2016. The claimant sought damages for false imprisonment, arguing that he had been confined to his house with no legal basis for long periods of time. The High Court and Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the claimant. The Home Secretary appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the curfew (although unlawful) did not qualify as imprisonment at common law and if it did, the common law concept of imprisonment should be modified and aligned with the more demanding concept of deprivation of liberty under ECHR, art 5.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Secretary of State’s appeal. Lady Hale, delivering judgment for the Court, held that the essence of imprisonment is being made to stay in a particular place by another person. The claimant’s case was a classic detention or confinement. However, the Court unanimously declined to align the domestic law of false imprisonment with the concept of deprivation of liberty under the Convention. As such, the Court held that it is possible for there to be imprisonment at common law without a deprivation of liberty under article 5.

For judgment, please download: [2020] UKSC 4

For Court’s press summary, please download: Press Summary

For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing please visit: Supreme Court website: 12 November 2019 morning session and afternoon session