Law of Torts - Trespass to Person

There are 3 types of intentional trespass to person. They are Assault, Battery and False Imprisonment. Common elements among them is physical harm inflicted by direct means.

A. Assault

An act which causes reasonable apprehension of the infliction of battery on P.


1. There must be some act consisting of some gesture or preparation to commit battery.

(body movement is necessary)

Example : to throw water it is assault. Threat by telephone if normal no but if bomb – Yes.

2. Words can negative what would otherwise be an assault.

D laid his hand upon his sword and said ‘if it were not assize time, I would not take such language from you’. It is not assult because his word negative apprehension of immediate contact.

Please refer to the case of Tuberville v Savage.

3. Conditional threat can amount to assault.

‘If you pay RM10 I will break your neck’

Please refer to the case of Read v Coker

4. Reasonable Fear of Harm

i. Pointing loaded pistol is an assault.

ii. But if unloaded pistol, depends on the P, if there is apprehension of immediate infliction of battery – Yes.

5. Ability to Carry Out the Threat

Example : A in a moving train pointing his fist to B who is on the platform. Here no assault because D cannot carried his threat.

6. Interception of Blow

Even the actual blow is intercepted by third person still assault.

Stephen v Myers - - D advanced towards P in a first meeting by showing his Fist and intercepted by church warden and was held liable.

B. Battery

Intentional and direct infliction of force to another person

1. Force

i. Any physical contact with the P’s body is enough. No need infliction of hurt.

ii. It must be voluntary. Even D does not foreseen the injury he is still liable.

2. Hostile Intent

In the case Wilson v Pringle it was held that it was the act of touching the P which has to be intentionally and that touch had to be proved to be hostile touching. This is to distinguish with ordinary everyday contact which is part of life.

3. Without consent of P

Medical treatment there is implied consent. Unsound mind/child there is no consent except by Guardian.

* Defence For Battery

i. If P consented to the contact (doctor/lawful games)

ii. Self Defence – Reasonable force used.

iii. Some argued that there might be contributory negligence due to provocation by P.

C. False Imprisonment

The infliction of a bodily restraint which is not expressly/impliedly authorized by law. False means wrongful. Imprison means restraint of a man’s liberty from moving.


1. Knowledge of the P is not essential

It is immaterial whether P knows he was detained.

Meering v Graham White-Aviation Co. - - P was suspected of stealing some varnish from D’s factory. He was taken to D’s office and 2 company policemen remained close to him while he was questioned. In an action for False Imprisonment the D argued that P was unaware he was imprisoned. Court rejected this argument.

2. Restraint Must Be Complete

D is only liable if P’s liberty is totally restrained.

Bird v Jones - - D wrongfully enclosed part of the public foot way on Hammaersmith Bridge. He put seat for spectators asked P to pay but P refuse and insisted to go across. D objected to proceed. P sued for false imprisonment. It was held that since there was a free way to go back the way he come, D was not liable. It was because restrain was not complete.

* Means of Escape – If there is means of escape but P don’t know it, still liable for False Imprisonment unless a reasonable man would have realized it.

See further Bird v Jones case.
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