Press Release: Supreme Court judgment in R (Jalloh (formerly Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department

Supreme Court judgment in R (Jalloh (formerly Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department: landmark ruling on the meaning of imprisonment

What does imprisonment mean?  Does it require being locked in a room, with a guard on every door?  Or can a person be imprisoned when they feel forced to remain in one place under threat?  In this, landmark, ruling, the Supreme Court has clarified these questions.

When Mr Jalloh was released from immigration detention in 2013, the Home Office imposed a curfew condition requiring him to remain at home every night.  The condition was backed by an electronic tag and the threat of criminal prosecution.  After Mr Jalloh successfully challenged the curfew in 2016 on the basis that the Home Office had no power to impose it, he brought a claim for false imprisonment. He had been subject to an unlawful curfew for two and a half years.  Mr Justice Lewis found that the restriction imposed on Mr Jalloh, amounted to imprisonment.[1]  He awarded Mr Jalloh £4,000 in damages.[2]  The Court of Appeal upheld that ruling and likened the curfew condition to house arrest.[3]

The Home Office appealed again, and invited the Supreme Court to give guidance as to what imprisonment means. In a unanimous judgment, given by the outgoing President, Lady Hale, the Supreme Court held that “[t]he essence of imprisonment is being made to stay in a particular place by another person. The methods which might be used to keep a person there are many and various” and could include “threats, whether of force or of legal process”.

The Supreme Court agreed that this was a case of forced not voluntary compliance:

“There can be no doubt that the claimant’s compliance was enforced. He was wearing an electronic tag which meant that leaving his address would be detected. The monitoring company would then telephone him to find out where he was. He was warned in the clearest possible terms that breaking the curfew could lead to a £5,000 fine or imprisonment for up to six months or both. He was well aware that it could also lead to his being detained again under the 1971 Act. All of this was backed up by the full authority of the State, which was claiming to have the power to do this. The idea that the claimant was a free agent, able to come and go as he pleased, is completely unreal.”

The Home Office argument that the concept of imprisonment should be aligned with the concept of deprivation of liberty under article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights was roundly rejected.  Lady Hale held that such a move would be a “retrograde step.”

Speaking after the judgment, Mr Jalloh’s solicitor, Ceri Lloyd-Hughes of Saunders Law, said:

This is a victory for common sense and for the common law.  A person does not need to be physically confined to one place to be imprisoned.  If their will is overborne, by force, coercive control, or by simple threat, then they can be imprisoned.  At a time that human rights are under threat, the Supreme Court’s decision to assert the power of the common law to protect vulnerable people is to be welcomed.  In light of this judgment, a significant number of people who were subject to unlawful immigration curfews can now proceed with their false imprisonment claims.

Mr Jalloh was represented in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal by Dinah Rose QC of Blackstone Chambers and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Ceri Lloyd-Hughes of Saunders Law. In the Administrative Court Mr Jalloh was represented by Tom Hickman (Blackstone Chambers) and Jude Bunting, instructed by Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors, and by Advocate (formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit; instructing Declan O'Dempsey and Navid Pourghazi).

For enquiries, please contact Keith Mason at [email protected].


[1] R (Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No.1) [2017] EWHC 330 (Admin).

[2] R (Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No.2) [2017] EWHC 2821 (Admin).

[3] R (Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No.2) [2018] EWCA 1260.



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