Christie v Leachinsky: HL 25 Mar 1947

Arrested Person must be told basis of the Arrest

Police officers appealed against a finding of false imprisonment. The plaintiff had been arrested under the 1921 Act, but this provided no power of arrest (which the appellant knew). The officers might lawfully have arrested the plaintiff for the felony of stealing a bale of cloth, which they had reasonable grounds for suspecting.
Held: Police officers must at common law give a detained person a reason for his arrest at or within a reasonable time of the arrest. Under ordinary circumstances, the police should tell a person the reason for his arrest at the time they make the arrest. If a person’s liberty is being restrained, he is entitled to know the reason. If the police fail to inform him, the arrest will be held to be unlawful, with the consequence that if the police are assaulted as the suspect resists arrest, he commits no offence, and if he is taken into custody, he will have an action for wrongful imprisonment.
Viscount Simon summarised a police officer’s powers of arrest at common law: ‘(1) If a policeman arrests without warrant upon reasonable suspicion of felony, or of other crime of a sort which does not require a warrant, he must in ordinary circumstances inform the person arrested of the true ground of arrest. He is not entitled to keep the reason to himself or to give a reason which is not the true reason. In other words a citizen is entitled to know on what charge or on suspicion of what crime he is seized. (2) If the citizen is not so informed but is nevertheless seized, the policeman, apart from certain exceptions, is liable for false imprisonment. (3) The requirement that the person arrested should be informed of the reason why he is seized naturally does not exist if the circumstances are such that he must know the general nature of the alleged offence for which he is detained. (4) The requirement that he should be so informed does not mean that technical or precise language need be used. The matter is a matter of substance, and turns on the elementary proposition that in this country a person is, prima facie, entitled to his freedom and is only required to submit to restraints on his freedom if he knows in substance the reason why it is claimed that this restraint should be imposed. (5) The person arrested cannot complain that he has not been supplied with the above information as and when he should be, if he himself produces the situation which makes it practically impossible to inform him, e.g., by immediate counter-attack or by running away. There may well be other exceptions to the general rule in addition to those I have indicated, and the above propositions are not intended to constitute a formal or complete code, but to indicate the general principles of our law on a very important matter.’
Lord Simonds said: ‘it is not an essential condition of lawful arrest that the constable should at the time of arrest formulate any charge at all, much less the charge which may ultimately be found in the indictment’.
Lord du Parcq said: ‘ . . a man is entitled to his liberty, and may, if necessary, defend his own freedom by force. If another person has a lawful reason for seeking to deprive him of that liberty, that person must as a general rule tell him what the reason is, for, unless he is told, he cannot be expected to submit to arrest, or blamed for resistance.’

Viscount Simon, Lord Thankerton, Lord Macmillan, Lord Simonds, Lord du Parcq
[1947] AC 573, [1947] UKHL 2, [1947]1 All ER 567, [1947] 63 TLR 231, (1947) 111 JP 224
Liverpool Corporation Act of 1921
England and Wales
CitedMackalley’s case 1611
If an officer or magistrate is killed when executing a process or preserving the peace, the offence is murder and remains so even if there is some defect in the process being executed, or the arrest was being made at night.
Constables were . .
CitedEntick v Carrington KBD 1765
The Property of Every Man is Sacred
The King’s Messengers entered the plaintiff’s house and seized his papers under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, a government minister.
Held: The common law does not recognise interests of state as a justification for allowing what . .
CitedSamuel v Payne 1780
A ploce constable can justify an arrest made on a charge preferred by another person, although no felony had in fact been committed. . .
CitedWilliams v Dawson 1788
Buller J said: ‘That if a peace officer of his own head takes a person into custody on suspicion, he must prove that there was such a crime committed; but that if he receives a person into custody on a charge preferred by another of felony or a . .
CitedHobbs v Branscomb 1813
. .
CitedDumbell v Roberts CA 1944
The court discussed the nature of reasonable grounds for suspicion for an arrest. The threshold for the existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion is low, and the requirement is limited. Scott LJ said: ‘The protection of the public is safeguarded . .
CitedRex v Ford 1817
It is not necessary for a person making an arrest to state the charge to the person detained in technical or precise language. . .
CitedHooper v Lane 1847
A man taken prisoner is entitled to know why. Lord Cranworth said: ‘The sheriff is bound, when he executes the writ, to make known the ground of the arrest, in order, among other reasons, that the person arrested may know whether he is or is not . .
CitedRex v Howarth 1828
There is no need for a police officer to tell a man why he is being arrested when he must, in the circumstances of the arrest, know the reason already. . .
CitedCowles v Dunbar 24-Feb-1827
Abbott CJ said: ‘if a reasonable charge of felony is given, a constable is bound to take the offender into custody’. . .
CitedBeckwith v Philby KBD 1827
Lord Tenterden CJ contrasted the powers of an ordinary citizen and of a police constable to make an arrest. Unlike a private citizen: ‘a constable, having reasonable ground to suspect that a felony has been committed, is authorised to detain the . .
CitedWalters v WH Smith and Son Ltd CA 1914
The plaintiff alleged false imprisonment and malicious prosecution after a private guard had arrested him at the defendant’s store.
Held: A private individual may justify his arrest of another on suspicion of having committed a felony only if . .

Cited by:
CitedTaylor (A Child Proceeding By his Mother and Litigation Friend C M Taylor) v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police CA 6-Jul-2004
The Chief Constable appealed aganst a finding that his officers had wrongfully arrested and imprisoned the claimant. The claimant was 10 years old when arrested, and complained that the officers had not properly advised him of the nature and purpose . .
CitedBrazil v Chief Constable of Surrey QBD 1983
The appellant had been convicted of assaulting a female police officer in the course of her duty when attempting to search her at a police station under section 23(2). She said that the police officers had not been acting in the execution of their . .
CitedMurray v Ministry of Defence HL 25-May-1988
The plaintiff complained that she had been wrongfully arrested by a soldier, since he had not given a proper reason for her detention.
Held: The House accepted the existence of an implied power in a statute which would be necessary to ensure . .
CitedSher and Others v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and Others Admn 21-Jul-2010
The claimants, Pakistani students in the UK on student visas, had been arrested and held by the defendants under the 2000 Act before being released 13 days later without charge. They were at first held incognito. They said that their arrest and . .
CitedBentley v Brudzinski QBD 1982
A police officer arrived at a situation. Answering a signal from a colleague, he placed his hand on the shoulder of a man in order to attract his attention. The man the hit the officer and was charged with assaulting the officer in the execution of . .
CitedCumberbatch v Crown Prosecution Service Admn 24-Nov-2009
In each case the defendants said that police officers arresting them had not been acting in the course of their duty, and that their resistance had been lawful. . .
CitedAbbassy v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis CA 28-Jul-1989
The court considered what information had to be given to a suspect on his arrest.
Held: The question whether or not the information given is adequate has to be assessed objectively having regard to the information which is reasonably available . .
CitedWilson v Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary CA 5-Nov-1996
‘Paragraph (2) of Article 5 contains the elementary safeguard that any person arrested should know why he is being deprived of his liberty. This protection is an integral part of the scheme of protection afforded by Article 5: by virtue of paragraph . .
CitedClarke v Chief Constable of North Wales Police CA 7-Oct-1997
. .
CitedRegina v Chalkley, Jeffries CACD 19-Dec-1997
The 1995 Act will not permit the Court of Appeal to allow an appeal where a conviction was safe but there was a substantial procedural unfairness. In order to understand the role of pre-1 January 1996 jurisprudence in applying what is now the . .
CitedNewman (t/a Mantella Publishing) v Modern Bookbinders Ltd CA 20-Jan-2000
The contemnor had taken back goods from the bailiff and was held in contempt of court. . .
CitedRegina v Carroll and Al-Hasan and Secretary of State for Home Department Admn 16-Feb-2001
The claimants challenged the instruction that they must squat whilst undergoing a strip search in prison. A dog search had given cause to supect the presence of explosives in the wing, and the officers understood that such explosives might be hidden . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Avery QBD 11-Oct-2001
The case concerned an appeal following a demonstration. The Chief constable had made an order under section 60, anticipating serious violence. The respondent wore a mask, and the officer reached out to remove it. She hit out and broke his glasses. . .
CitedAshleigh-Nicholson v Staffordshire Police and Another CA 23-Aug-2002
. .
CitedRegina on the application of Faulkner v Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 1-Nov-2005
. .
CitedRaissi and Another v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis QBD 30-Nov-2007
The claimants had been arrested under the 2000 Act, held for differing lengths of time and released without charge. They sought damages for false imprisonment.
Held: The officers had acted on their understanding that senior offcers had more . .
CitedRaissi, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 14-Feb-2008
The claimant appealed against refusal of his request for judicial review of the defendant’s decision not to award him damages after his wrongful arrest and detention after he was wrongly suspected of involvement in terrorism. He had been discharged . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
CitedKambadzi (previously referred to as SK (Zimbabwe)) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 25-May-2011
False Imprisonment Damages / Immigration Detention
The respondent had held the claimant in custody, but had failed to follow its own procedures. The claimant appealed against the rejection of his claim of false imprisonment. He had overstayed his immigration leave, and after convictions had served a . .
CitedTims v John Lewis and Co Ltd CA 1951
The plaintiff said that the defendant’s allegation against him leading to a prosecution which failed was malicious.
Held: Lord Goddard CJ said: ‘It is quite easy to imagine a case in which a person was thoroughly justified in bringing . .
CitedWilliamson v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago PC 3-Sep-2014
(Trinidad and Tobago) The claimant had been held after arrest on suspicion of theft. He was held for several months before the case was dismissed, the posecution having made no apparent attempt to further the prosecution. He appealed against refusal . .
CitedBostridge v Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust CA 10-Feb-2015
The claimant had been detained as a mental patient, but it was accepted that that detention had been unlawful as to over 400 days. The respondent argued that since he might have been detained in any event under other powers, he should receive only . .
CitedMcCann v Crown Prosecution Service Admn 21-Aug-2015
Appeal by case stated against conviction for obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty. The appellant had been protesting. She, correctly, thought the land to be a rivate highway. The police officer had thought it a public hghway and . .
CitedLee-Hirons v Secretary of State for Justice SC 27-Jul-2016
The appellant had been detained in a mental hospital after a conviction. Later released, he was recalled, but he was not given written reasons as required by a DoH circular. However the SS referred the recall immediately to the Tribunal. He appealed . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.198671