By Safi Jimba
False imprisonment (and slander) XIX
Continued from last Week
E. Adefumilayo v. O. Oduntan
(1958) W.R.N.L.R. 31
HIGH CT. – ADEMOLA C.J
On a report made by the appellant to the police about the theft of his goods, appellant was asked whether he suspected anybody. He replied that he suspected the respondent, who was subsequently detained by the police for enquiry. In a subsequent action brought by the respondent claiming damages for false imprisonment. On appeal to the High Court.
Held: (1) that the learned trial magistrate put an unnecessary premium on the fact that the appellant, on being questioned by the police, said he suspected the respondent;
(2) that this expression of opinion by the appellant is no more than putting the police constable on a trail upon which he can work instead of leaving him in the wilderness;
(3) that since it would be the duty of the police constable, after receiving such information, to make investigations himself which may or may not lead to an arrest it is not correct to say that the appellant had put the law into motion against the respondent.
“The point which calls for decision in this appeal is whether or not a man rendered himself liable to an action for false imprisonment if on a report to the police by him of the theft of his goods, and being questioned by the police during investigations, if he suspected anybody, he answered that he suspected X who, after due investigation by a police constable, was detained for enquiry…
Now, in the case of Chivers v. savage (1855) 25 L.J.Q.B. 85) it was said by Lord Campbell C.J. that if the evidence shows no more than that the defendant, upon a suspicion of felony, made a complaint and charge to the police upon which they themselves acted and took plaintiff into custody, an action for false imprisonment would not have been maintained; but where the defendant had expressly directed the police to take plaintiff into custody, this is an imprisonment by the plaintiff and an action for false imprisonment would lie.
Defendant, an assistant district officer, were both licencees of a building which each of them was entitled to use. The plaintiff entered the building while the defendant was holding an official meeting there and objected to the latter’s presence. The defendant did not like the plaintiff’s attitude, and ordered the second defendant, a police constable, to give the plaintiff a “smack on the chops”, which order was carried out. The plaintiff thereupon brought an action for assault and battery against the defendant, Millbourne claiming $150 damages. The second defendant was not made a party to the action until more than three months after the cause of action arose.