Damages For False Imprisonment & Malicious Prosecution

Liberty is a precious fundamental human right, firmly protected by law and only legitimately withdrawn in certain circumstances. Despite this, local authorities, the courts and government departments occasionally detain individuals wrongly prosecuted for a crime. This short guide explains the difference between false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, the types of damages that can be claimed, and a guideline to the amount compensated for damages by the court.

False imprisonment occurs when someone is deprived of their liberty for no lawful reason, and a claim for false imprisonment can be made. Examples of this may include:

  • Wrongful arrest and subsequent detention;
  • Illegal detention under the Immigration Act 1971 pending removal from the UK;
  • A failure to be released from your prison sentence on the correct date; or
  • Illegal detention under the Mental Health Act 1983.

Individuals who have been held for longer than lawfully allowed, or when there were no grounds for their detention in the first place, have the right to claim damages for malicious prosecution. Defined as ‘the wrongful institution of criminal proceedings against someone without reasonable grounds’, you may be able to make a false imprisonment claim if you have:

  • Been detained after your release date for two weeks or more; or
  • Whilst imprisoned been wrongly informed that you would be deported; or
  • Suffered any psychological injury as result of being detained for longer than your sentence, or as the individual being told that you would be deported; or
  • Been wrongly deported whilst a British Citizen.

Types of damages for false imprisonment

False imprisonment and malicious prosecution cases take many forms, from unjustified detention in a hospital or mental health unit to retention in prison at the end of a lawful sentence for no legitimate reason. There are three types of damages that can be claimed for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Namely basic, aggravated and exemplary damages:

  1. Basic damages are awarded for the actual time that you were imprisoned or for the wrongful prosecution
  2. Aggravated damages are awarded for any mental distress or injury to feelings caused by the unlawful arrest or detention
  3. Exemplary damages are to punish the relevant authority for any particularly oppressive or insulting behaviour. Exemplary damages are however only usually payable in exceptional circumstances.

Damage Guideline Information

The leading case in this area is the case of Thompson & Hsu v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [1998] QB 498 which gave guidelines as to the amount of damages that a court should consider awarding. It held that:

  • In a straightforward wrongful arrest and imprisonment case the starting point is likely to be £500 for the first hour;
  • This amount will be reduced as time continues with damages of around £3,000 expected for a detention of 24 hours;
  • A daily rate would then be applied at a much lesser rate;
  • If aggravated damages are to be awarded then they are not likely to be less than £1,000;
  • The total amount of basic and aggravated damages should be what is considered fair compensation for the injury suffered; and
  • Exemplary damages should be awarded where the basic and aggravated damages are an inadequate punishment for the defendants. If these are applicable then they are not likely to be less than £5,000. The absolute maximum is likely to be £50,000 and the conduct for this would need to directly involve officers of at least the rank of superintendent.

How Nelsons Can Help

If you need advice on a false imprisonment claim, our specialist lawyers can help. Our team deals with all types of compensation claims for individuals who have been wrongfully deprived of their freedom and will advise on your rights to claim damages effective from the point of your releasement.

With particular expertise in cases involving the courts and the UK Border Agency, we have specialist experience in post-prison sentence immigration detentions.

We’ll also factor in a claim for additional (aggravated or exemplary) compensation if the conduct of the detaining authority is justified, including injuries such as depression suffered as a result of false imprisonment.

Our team may be able to offer you a no-win, no-fee arrangement on the circumstance that you’ve been detained after your release date for a duration of two weeks.

Should you feel that you may have a claim for wrongful arrest or false imprisonment, please contact Kevin Modiri, a Partner & Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team who specialises inthis area, on 0800 024 1976 or email newbusinessteam@nelsonslaw.co.uk

Case examples

The above are however only guidelines and the actual damages would depend on the circumstances of the case. Specific examples of cases where damages have been awarded are:

  • R v Governor of Brockhill Prison ex parte Evans [2000] 3 WLR 843 – The House of Lords gave damages of £5,000 for 59 days unlawful detention after completing an 18 month prison sentence due to the fact that there was no loss of reputation, shock or injury to feelings as the claimant had already been imprisoned legally for 18 months.
  • Lunt v Liverpool Justices [1991] CA 5 Mar 1991 – The Court of Appeal awarded damages of £25,000 for 42 days unlawful imprisonment due to the fact that all of the detention had been unlawful, the shock to the claimant and the stigma related to having been imprisoned. The inflation adjustment of this award in June 2006 was £37,776.
  • Mohidin and Ors v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2015] EWHC 2740 (QB) – This case involved the wrongful arrest of three claimants. The first was awarded £200 for five minutes detention and £2,300 aggravated damages in respect of racist abuse for a few minutes. The second was assaulted, arrested and detained for 20 hours and was awarded £4,500 for basic damages, £250 for pain and suffering and £7,200 aggravated damages partly due to the fact that  false allegations made by a police officer meant that he was wrongly strip searched. The third was detained for 10 hours and was awarded £3,000 basic damages, £500 for pain and suffering and £3,500 aggravated damages.