Damages for false imprisonment: an example from immigration detention

Court of Protection practitioners may be interested in the successful challenge by Godwin Chaparadza to actions by the SSHD including, materially for our purposes although only one aspect of his successful claim, much of which is outside the scope of this post, challenges to the lawfulness of his detention between 11 April 2014 and 20 June 2014.

Mr Chaparadza had entered the UK as a student in 2004 and applied for his leave to be varied outside the immigration rules in 2011.  This had the effect of extending his leave to remain pending the decision on that application and any appeal.  The Home Secretary refused the application but did not notify Mr Chaparadza.  When in 2013 he was arrested for driving without insurance and obstruction, he was treated as an overstayer; he applied for asylum and was rejected and after he exhausted his rights to appeal he was detained while reporting in April 2014.   The Home Secretary refused to treat his further submissions as a fresh claim and he sought judicial review of, amongst other matters, the failure to comply with the notice requirement of the 2011 decision and the lawfulness of his detention.

In (very brief) summary the court found that the failure to notify Mr Chaparadza of the refusal of his application in 2011 meant that the refusal itself was of no effect: this triggered the extension of his leave and therefore there was no basis to detain him in April 2014.   The detention was, therefore, unlawful.  The Home Secretary argued that this was a technical error: the judge disagreed.  Reviewing the scope of damages for unlawful detention he awarded Mr Chaparadza £3,500 for the first 3 days on the basis of what he accepted was the shock of being detained and £7,000 for the remainder of the two month period, on the basis that Mr Chaparadza suffered no lasting harm.

In many cases where unlawful detention of P comes to light it will not be possible to demonstrate the tort of false imprisonment which involves is “the unlawful imposition of constraint on another’s freedom of movement from a particular place” (Collins v Wilcock [1984] 1 W.L.R. 1172 at 1178.)  However for those cases where this can be shown there is much to learn from the awards of damages in other jurisdictions.

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