Regina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague, Weldon v Home Office: HL 24 Jul 1991

The prisoner challenged the decision to place him in segregation under Prison Rule 43. Under rule 43(1) the initial power to segregate was given to ‘the governor’. The case arose from the fact that the governor of one prison had purported to authorise the segregation of a prisoner on his arrival at another prison to which he was being transferred, as required by an instruction issued by the Home Office. The prisoner’s continued segregation at his new prison, after the initial period of segregation expired, was then automatically authorised by the regional director of prisons on behalf of the Secretary of State, in accordance with the same instruction.
Held: The House characterised the Prison Rules as regulatory in character, to the extent that they dealt with the management, treatment and control of prisoners.
A prisoner ‘is lawfully committed to a prison and while there is subject to the Prison Act 1953 and the Prison Rules 1954. His whole life is regulated by the regime. He has no freedom to do what he wants, when he wants. His liberty to do anything is governed by the prison regime. Placing Weldon in a strip cell and segregating Hague altered the conditions under which they were detained but did not deprive them of any liberty which they had not already lost when initially confined.’ A person who has been deprived of his liberty in pursuance of a lawful power to detain cannot through the medium of the tort of false imprisonment complain about the conditions in which he is detained, at least by those who are lawfully detaining him, though unauthorised persons, such as other prisoners, might indeed be guilty of false imprisonment if they confined another prisoner within the prison. Whether a statutory duty gives rise to a private cause of action is a question of construction of the statute. When justifying a detention, the issue of detention must be considered and determined before one can turn to the issue of justification.
As to an allegation of novus actus interveniens, Lord Bingham emphasised that the duty was a duty to take reasonable care and not to guarantee that a fatality did not occur: ‘Since an act of self-destruction by the deceased was the very risk against which the defendant was bound in law to take reasonable precautions, I cannot see how that act can be regarded as a novus actus. So to hold would be to deprive the duty of meaningful content. This was, after all, the very thing against which the defendant was duty- bound to take precautions. It can make no difference that the deceased was mentally ‘normal’ (assuming he was), since it is not suggested that the defendant’s duty was owed only to the abnormal. The suicide of the deceased cannot in my view be regarded as breaking the chain of causation.’ and ‘If the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care despite the fact that the deceased was of sound mind, then it again seems to me to empty that duty of meaningful content if any claim based on breach of the duty is inevitably defeated by a defence of volenti.’
Lord Bridge of Harwich said that the tort of false imprisonment has two ingredients: the fact of imprisonment and the absence of lawful authority to justify it.


Lord Bridge of Harwich, Lord Ackner, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Lowry


[1992] 1 AC 58, Times 25-Jul-1991, [1991] 3 All ER 733, [1990] UKHL 8, [1991] 3 WLR 340, [1992] COD 69, (1993) 5 Admin LR 425, [1991] UKHL 13, [1991] BCC 713, 1991 SLT 523, 1991 SC (HL) 22


Bailii, Bailii


Prison Act 1953 12 13, Prison Rules 1964 43


England and Wales


Appeal fromRegina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague CA 5-Jun-1990
A decision to segregate a prisoner under rule 43 is to be made by the governor of the prison where he is held. Taylor LJ said: ‘Apart from the urgency of decisions under r 43, there may well be other public policy grounds for not giving reasons in . .
CitedRegina v Board of Visitors of Hull Prison, Ex parte St Germain (No 2) CA 1979
Proper Limits on Imprisonment
The court discussed the proper limits of imprisonment: ‘despite the deprivation of his general liberty, a prisoner remains invested with residuary rights appertaining to the nature and conduct of his incarceration . . An essential characteristic of . .
CitedLeech v Governor of Parkhurst Prison HL 1988
The House was asked whether a disciplinary decision by a governor was amenable to judicial review.
Held: The functions of a governor adjudicating upon disciplinary charges are separate and distinct from his functions in running the prison; . .
CitedGroves v Lord Wimborne CA 1898
The court heard a case dealing with a claim for breach of a duty to fence dangerous machinery under the Act.
Held: Legislation protecting safety in the workplace gives rise to an action by a person for whom the protection was intended for . .
CitedArbon v Anderson 1943
The court was asked whether a cause of action arose from a breach of the Prison Rules 1933. Goddard LJ said: ‘With regard to the prison rules, it would be enough to say that there were no breaches, but, in case a higher court should take a different . .
CitedRegina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague, Weldon v Home Office QBD 1990
A prisoner challenged the decision that he should be segregated under rule 43.
Held: Ralph Gibson LJ said: ‘In this case Mr Sedley acknowledged that there could not be an unqualified obligation in all cases upon the governor to allow the right . .
CitedLonrho Ltd v Shell Petroleum Co Ltd (No 2) HL 1-Apr-1981
No General Liability in Tort for Wrongful Acts
The plaintiff had previously constructed an oil supply pipeline from Beira to Mozambique. After Rhodesia declared unilateral independence, it became a criminal offence to supply to Rhodesia without a licence. The plaintiff ceased supply as required, . .
CitedLondon Passenger Transport Board v Upson HL 1949
‘A prudent man will guard against the possible negligence of others when experience shows such negligence to be common’.
Lord Wright said: ‘a claim for damages for breach of a statutory duty intended to protect a person in the position of the . .
CitedBecker v Home Office CA 1972
Mrs. Becker had started an action as trustee when she was sent to prison for obtaining credit as a bankrupt. She applied to leave prison in order to conduct her case. The Home Secretary made a direction for her production under Section 29 of the . .
ErroneousMiddleweek v The Chief Constable of Merseyside (Note) CA 1990
The plaintiff had been awarded damages for false imprisonment by the jury on the basis that his otherwise lawful detention at a police station had been made unlawful because it was unreasonable in the circumstances to keep him in a police cell.
CitedYorke v Chapman 1839
The plaintiff was a prisoner committed to the Queen’s Bench Prison for debt. He had been further confined by the marshal in terms of a rule of court in a strong room for disorderly behaviour. He had a statutory right to petition the court on the . .
CitedCobbett v Grey 1849
A prisoner complained that he had been falsely imprisoned in a part of a prison in which he could not lawfully be confined. . .
CitedOsborne v Milman 1886
The plaintiff sought damages, saying that though a prisoner he had been further unlawfully confined within the prison. . .
CitedCutler v Wandsworth Stadium Ltd HL 1949
The Act required the occupier of a licensed racetrack to take all steps necessary to secure that, so long as a totalisator was being lawfully operated on the track, there was available for bookmakers space on the track where they could conveniently . .
CitedWilliams v Home Office (No 2) 1981
Tudor-Evans J said: ‘In my judgment, the sentence of the court and the provisions of section 12(1) always afford a defence to an action of false imprisonment. The sentence justifies the fact of imprisonment and the subsection justifies the . .
CitedRaymond v Honey HL 4-Mar-1981
The defendant prison governor had intercepted a prisoner’s letter to the Crown Office for the purpose of raising proceedings to have the governor committed for an alleged contempt of court.
Held: The governor was in contempt of court. Subject . .
CitedRegina v Board of Visitors of Gartree Prison, Ex parte Sears 14-Mar-1985
A prisoner sought damages in respect of cellular confinement and loss of privileges.
Held: Mann J. said: ‘If a person is imprisoned in a place where he is lawfully so imprisoned, then it does not seem to me that a variation in conditions of . .

Cited by:

CitedLondon Borough of Tower Hamlets v Runa Begum CA 6-Mar-2002
The applicant had applied for rehousing as a homeless person. She was offered interim accommodation but refused it. Her case was reviewed, and her reasons rejected. She claimed the procedure was unfair, in that the authority was looking at decisions . .
CitedS v Airedale National Health Service Trust QBD 22-Aug-2002
The patient had been detained, and then secluded within the mental hospital for 11 days. He claimed to have been subjected to inhuman treatment, and false imprisonment.
Held: His claim failed. The policy allowed the authority to confine him to . .
CitedCullen v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Northern Ireland) HL 10-Jul-2003
The claimant had been arrested. He had been refused access to a solicitor whilst detaiined, but, in breach of statutory duty, he had not been given reasons as to why access was denied. He sought damages for that failure.
Held: If damages were . .
CitedMunjaz v Mersey Care National Health Service Trust And the Secretary of State for Health, the National Association for Mental Health (Mind) Respondent interested; CA 16-Jul-2003
The claimant was a mental patient under compulsory detention, and complained that he had been subjected to periods of seclusion.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The hospital had failed to follow the appropriate Code of Practice. The Code was not . .
CitedStovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
CitedJD, MAK and RK, RK and Another v East Berkshire Community Health, Dewsbury Health Care NHS Trust and Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Oldham NHS Trust and Dr Blumenthal CA 31-Jul-2003
Damages were sought by parents for psychological harm against health authorities for the wrongful diagnosis of differing forms of child abuse. They appealed dismissal of their awards on the grounds that it was not ‘fair just and reasonable’ to . .
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 . .
CitedIn Re L (By His Next Friend GE); Regina v Bournewood Community and Mental Health NHS Trust, Ex Parte L HL 25-Jun-1998
The applicant was an adult autistic, unable to consent to medical treatment. Treatment was provided at a day centre. He had been detained informally under the Act and against the wishes of his carers, but the Court of Appeal decided he should have . .
CitedSecretary of State for the Home Department v SP CA 21-Dec-2004
The applcant, a girl aged 17 was in a young offender institution. She complained that she had been removed to segregation without first giving her chance to be heard. The respondent argued that there were sufficient post decision safeguards to . .
CitedB, Regina (on the Application of) v Ashworth Hospital Authority HL 17-Mar-2005
The House was asked whether a patient detained for treatment under the 1983 Act can be treated against his will for any mental disorder from which he is suffering or only for the particular form of mental disorder from which he is classified as . .
No longer authoritativeRegina v Ashworth Hospital Authority (Now Mersey Care National Health Service Trust) ex parte Munjaz HL 13-Oct-2005
The claimant was detained in a secure Mental Hospital. He complained at the seclusions policy applied by the hospital, saying that it departed from the Guidance issued for such policies by the Secretary of State under the Act.
Held: The House . .
CitedCommissioner of Police for the Metropolis v Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL 15-Jul-1999
The deceased was a prisoner known to be at risk of committing suicide. Whilst in police custody he hanged himself in his prison cell. The Commissioner accepted that he was in breach of his duty of care to the deceased, but not that that breach was . .
CitedWatkins v Home Office and others HL 29-Mar-2006
The claimant complained of misfeasance in public office by the prisons for having opened and read protected correspondence whilst he was in prison. The respondent argued that he had suffered no loss. The judge had found that bad faith was . .
CitedPrison Officers Association v Iqbal CA 4-Dec-2009
The claimant, a prisoner, alleged false imprisonment. The prison officers had taken unlawful strike action leaving him to be confined within his cell and unable to be involved in his normal activities. In view of the strike, a governor’s order had . .
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 . .
CitedKing, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice CA 27-Mar-2012
In each case the prisoners challenged their transfer to cellular confinement or segregation within prison or YOI, saying that the transfers infringed their rights under Article 6, saying that domestic law, either in itself or in conjunction with . .
CitedOlutu v Home Office CA 29-Nov-1996
The claimant said that she had been detained in excess of the period allowed under the 1987 Regulations, and that that detention was unlawful. She now appealed against the striking out of her claim.
Held: Her action failed. The availablility . .
CitedBourgass and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice SC 29-Jul-2015
The Court considered the procedures when a prisoner is kept in solitary confinement, otherwise described as ‘segregation’ or ‘removal from association’, and principally whether decisions to keep the appellants in segregation for substantial periods . .
CitedShahid v Scottish Ministers (Scotland) SC 14-Oct-2015
The appellant convicted of a racially-aggravated vicious murder. Since conviction he had spent almost five years in segregation from other prisoners. The appellant now alleged that some very substantial periods of segregation had been in breach of . .
CitedCampbell v Gordon SC 6-Jul-2016
The employee was injured at work, but in a way excluded from the employers insurance cover. He now sought to make the sole company director liable, hoping in term to take action against the director’s insurance brokers for negligence, the director . .
CitedHemmati and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 27-Nov-2019
The Home Secretary appealed from a finding that illegally entered asylum seekers had been unlawfully detained pending removal. The five claimants had travelled through other EU member states before entering the UK. The court considered inter alia . .
CitedPoole Borough Council v GN and Another SC 6-Jun-2019
This appeal is concerned with the liability of a local authority for what is alleged to have been a negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties. The principal question of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Prisons, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 24 April 2022; Ref: scu.183200