Hunt v AB: CA 22 Oct 2009

The claimant sought damages from a woman in malicious prosecution, saying that she had made a false allegation of rape against him. He had served two years in prison.
Held: The claim failed. A complainant is not a prosecutor, and is not liable for the decision to prosecute. To become liable it has to be shown that the complainant had deliberately manipulated the prosecutors into a position which they would otherwise not have taken. In this case it was the police who had approached the defendant to encourage a complaint.
Moore-Bick LJ said: ‘In Martin v Watson Lord Keith, having approved the statement of principle in Clerk and Lindsell to which I have referred, identified at page 80E of the report the question at issue as being ‘whether or not the defendant is properly to be regarded, in all the circumstances, as having set the law in motion against the plaintiff.’ In my view, it is essential for a correct understanding of later passages in his Lordship’s speech to keep that question well in mind . . I think it is clear from Lord Keith’s speech and from the authorities to which he referred that the concept of ‘setting the law in motion’ requires something more than merely making a complaint or report which suggests that an offence has been committed; it also involves active steps of some kind to ensure that a prosecution ensues (what Richardson J in Commercial Union Assurance Co of New Zealand Ltd v Lamont [1989] 3 NZLR 187 at page 199 described as ‘procuring the use of the power of the state’). Invoking the power of the state against the claimant is central to the tort of malicious prosecution and requires a positive desire and intention to procure a prosecution. In effect, it must be the defendant’s purpose to bring about a prosecution and that purpose must be translated into actions which are effective in bringing about proceedings. . . ‘


Sedley LJ, Wall LJ, Moore-Bick LJ


[2009] EWCA Civ 1092, Times 27-Oct-2009




England and Wales


CitedDanby v Beardsley 1880
The court heard a claim of malicious prosecution.
Held: A person who is not a party to a prosecution but actively puts the criminal process in motion may be liable for malicious prosecution.
Where an individual falsely and maliciously . .
CitedMartin v Watson CA 26-Jan-1994
The claimant sought damages for malicious prosecution, saying that the defendant had made a complaint to the police knowing it to be false that the claimant had indecently exposed himself. Acting on the complaint the police had arrested and charged . .
CitedMahon, Kent v Dr Rahn, Biedermann, Haab-Biedermann, Rahn, and Bodmer (a Partnership) (No 2) CA 8-Jun-2000
The defendant’s lawyers wrote to a financial services regulatory body investigating the possible fraudulent conduct of the plaintiff’s stockbroking firm. The letter was passed to the Serious Fraud Office who later brought criminal proceedings . .
CitedMartin v Watson HL 13-Jul-1995
The plaintiff had been falsely reported to the police by the defendant, a neighbour, for indecent exposure whilst standing on a ladder in his garden. He had been arrested and charged, but at a hearing before the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown . .

Cited by:

CitedCommissioner of Police of The Metropolis v Copeland CA 22-Jul-2014
The defendant appealed against the award of damages for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosection, saying that the question posed for the jury were misdirections, and that the jury’s decision was perverse. The claimant was attending the . .
CitedCXZ v ZXC QBD 26-Jun-2020
Malicious Prosecution needs court involvement
W had made false allegations against her husband of child sex abuse to police. He sued in malicious prosecution. She applied to strike out, and he replied saying that as a developing area of law a strike out was inappropriate.
Held: The claim . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Police

Updated: 06 December 2022; Ref: scu.377234