Hague v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison – Case Summary

R v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison (Ex parte Hague)

Weldon v Home Office

House of Lords

Citations: [1992] 1 AC 58; [1991] 3 WLR 340; [1991] 3 All ER 733; (1993) 5 Admin LR 425; [1992] COD 69; (1991) 135 SJLB 102; [1992] CLY 3651.


Hague was a prisoner serving a sentence at Parkhurst prison. The deputy governor of Parkhurst transferred him to the Wormwood Scrubs prison. The deputy then ordered that Hague should be segregated from other prisoners. The 1964 Prison Rules did not permit him to make this order, meaning that the segregation was unlawful. The Prison Rules exist pursuant to s.47(1) of the Prison Act 1954 which states that:

‘The Secretary of State may make rules for the regulation and management of prisons, remand centres, detention centres and Borstal institutions respectively, and for the classification, treatment, employment, discipline and control of persons required to be detained therein.’

Hague successfully brought an action for judicial review of the decision to segregate him. He then sued for damages under the tort of false imprisonment and for breach of statutory duty.

Weldon was a prisoner serving a sentence at Leeds prison. He alleged that prison officers burst into his cell and were violent against him. The officers then locked him in a ‘strip’ cell, took his clothes and continued to subject him to violence. He sued for damages under the tort of false imprisonment.

  1. Does breach of the 1964 Prison Rules give rise to a private action for breach of statutory duty?
  2. Does further confinement of a prisoner serving a lawful sentence count as a ‘detention’ of that prisoner for the purposes of false imprisonment?
  3. Does the unlawful or intolerable treatment of a prisoner convert a lawful detention into an unlawful one?

The House of Lords held against Hague. The 1964 Prison Rules did not create a private action for breach of statutory duty. This was because the Rules were designed to regulate prison governance rather than to benefit prisoners. The false imprisonment actions failed because, as prisoners serving a lawful sentence, Hague and Weldon had no residual liberty vis-a-vis the prison governors.

This Case is Authority For…

A private action for damages arises where:

  1. The statute benefits or protects a limited class of the public; and
  2. Parliament intended such an action to arise from the breach of a statutory duty.

That a statutory duty relates to a limited class of the public does not necessarily mean that Parliament intended the duty to benefit that class. The fact that a statutory duty is regulatory in nature makes it less likely that Parliament intended damages to be available for its breach.

Prisoners who are lawfully detained do not have any ‘residual liberty’ against the prison governors. This means that it is not false imprisonment to confine them to a particular part of the prison. Unlawful treatment of a prisoner after their lawful detention does not make the detention unlawful.


Lord Bridge commented that a prisoner might succeed in false imprisonment if they were confined to a particular part of the prison by another prisoner or an officer acting in bad faith (i.e., knowing they have no legal authority). Lord Ackner agreed that prisoners may have ‘residual liberty’ against other prisoners.

Lords Bridge and Jauncy stated that where a prisoner is injured by a breach of the Prison Rules or is subjected to intolerable conditions, the proper cause of action is negligence.