Bird v. Jones [1845] 7 QB 742

False imprisonment – obstruction of a public road


Bird, B, wished to cross a section of a public road which was closed off due to a boat race. Two policemen, D, prevented B from passing in the direction he wished to go, but was allowed to go in the only other diction in which he could pass. B refused to go in that direction and stood in the same place. B raised an action against D for false imprisonment.


B claimed that the exclusion from using a section of the public road which prohibited him from moving in one direction, despite all other directions remaining unobstructed, constituted false imprisonment.


Partial obstruction and disturbance does not constitute imprisonment. Coleridge J. stated at paragraph 744 of his judgement that:

“a prison may have its boundary large or narrow, visible and tangible, or, though real, still in the conception only; it may itself be moveable or fixed: but a boundary it must have; and that boundary the party imprisoned must be prevented from passing; he must be prevented from leaving that place, within the ambit of which the party imprisoning would confine him, except by prison-breach.”

A prison must therefore have a boundary. As there was still one direction which B could take, he could not be said to have been imprisoned as he was not confined and prevented from passing or leaving that place. B was at liberty to move off in another direction and no restraint or actual force was used against him.