According to the authors of both Clerk and Lindsell on Torts and Halsbury’s Laws of England, the tort of false imprisonment is committed whenever a person is unlawfully subjected to a total restraint of movement, no matter how short the period of restraint. Does that mean that if a claimant is restrained during the period of an assault, he can claim for damages for false imprisonment (and so have his claim decided by a jury) as well as for the injuries themselves?
No, held Master Fontaine in the case of Bowden v Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary (unreported: QBD, 9th December 2010). In Bowden the facts as the Claimant alleged them to be were that he was assaulted by police officers who set their dog on him and then hit him with batons. The allegation was that the dog had wrestled the Claimant to the ground and that it had prevented his escape by biting him for three minutes until the officers eventually called it off. The Claimant argued that the three minutes during which he was restrained on the ground by the dog amounted to false imprisonment as well as assault, and that he was entitled to have his claim for damages decided by a jury.
Master Fontaine granted summary judgment to the Defendant on the allegation of false imprisonment. She noted that the statements made in the text books (that any period of unlawful restraint is false imprisonment) were not supported by any reported cases anywhere in the UK or Commonwealth. There had been no manifestation by the police of any intention to arrest or detain the claimant and so if he was detained at all, it was as a consequence of an assault and did not amount to the tort of false imprisonment.