Bird v Jones – Case Summary

Bird v Jones

High Court

Citations: (1845) 7 QBR 742; (1845) 115 ER 668


The defendant unlawfully enclosed part of the highway. He was charging a fee to admit spectators to view a boat race. The claimant tried to enter the enclosure without paying, and was repelled by the defendant and two police officers. At all times the claimant was unrestrained and free to return the way he came. He sued the defendant in the tort of false imprisonment.

  1. Can a partial obstruction of liberty amount to unlawful detention?

The High Court held in favour of the defendant. The claimant was never detained.

This Case is Authority For…

To establish detention or imprisonment, the claimant must show that they were completely obstructed. If the claimant is merely prevented from going in one direction but is free to go in another, they are not imprisoned.


Coleridge J also stated, obiter, that there is no need for any force to be applied to the claimant for there to be a detention. All that is required is that the claimant is completely confined to a particular location, which can be by force, compulsion of will or using some obstacle.