Leachinsky v Christie

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeViscount Simon,Lord Thankerton,Lord Simonds,Lord du Parcq
Judgment Date25 Mar 1947
Judgment citation (vLex)[1947] UKHL J0325-1

[1947] UKHL J0325-1

House of Lords

Viscount Simon

Lord Thankerton

Lord Macmillan

Lord Simonds

Lord du Parcq

Christie and Morris
and
Leachinsky

After hearing Counsel, as well on Monday the 2d, as on Tuesday the 3d, Thursday the 5th, Friday the 6th, Monday the 9th and Tuesday the 10th, days of December last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Lewis Christie, of 27 Strawberry Road, Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, and of Thomas Morris, 75 Wavertree Nook Road, Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of His Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 17th of July 1945, so far as regards the words "It is Ordered that so much of this Appeal as is directed against the Judgment directed to be entered for the Defendants Lewis Christie and Thomas Morris with Costs be allowed and that that part of the said Judgment be set aside and Judgment entered for the Plaintiff for damages against the Defendants Lewis Christie and Thomas Morris in the claim for the first imprisonment and against the Defendant Lewis Christie on the claim for the second imprisonment such damages to be assessed by a Judge and Jury." might be reviewed before His Majesty the King, in His Court of Parliament, and that the said Order, so far as aforesaid, might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to His Majesty the King, in His Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the printed Case of Maurice Samuel Leachinsky, lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of His Majesty the King assembled, That the said Order of His Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 17th day of July 1945, be, and the same is hereby, Affirmed so far as regards the claim for the first imprisonment, and that, so far as complained of in the said Appeal, the said Order of His Majesty's Court of Appeal be, and the same is hereby, Reversed as regards the claim for the second imprisonment, and that Judgment be entered for the Defendant Christie on the claim for the second imprisonment: And it is further Ordered, That no variation be made in the Order of the Court of Appeal as to costs: And it is further Ordered, That the Appellants do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Respondent the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is also further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

Viscount Simon

My Lords,

1

The Respondent is a "waste" merchant who deals in what are commonly called rags, with a warehouse in Beaufort Street, Liverpool. The two Appellants are respectively a Detective Constable and a Detective Sergeant in the Liverpool City Police Force. The Respondent has brought an action against the Appellants (together with other Police Officers who have now been dismissed from the suit) for damages for false imprisonment, alleging that he was wrongfully arrested and detained by them on August 31st, 1942. The Trial Judge, Mr. Justice Stable, directed judgment to be entered for the Defendants (including the present Appellants), but the Court of Appeal (Scott, Lawrence and Uthwatt L.J J.) reversed this decision and ordered judgment to be entered for the Plaintiff (the present Respondent) against the Appellants for damages, such damages to be assessed by Judge and Jury.

2

I agree with Lord Justice Scott that the main issue raised is of great importance and requires careful examination, for it concerns the liberty of the subject and the extent of the powers of the Police to arrest without warrant.

3

The facts which raise this issue are as follows. The Respondent was in the habit of buying his supplies from various towns and had recently from time to time made purchases from a tailoring firm in Leicester called Michaelson. On August 26th he there bought three bales of waste cuttings for £4 6s. 0d., such waste being habitually sold by weight. On the 27th he called with a van to pay for and collect what he had bought and, according to his story, incidentally asked Mr. Michaelson if he had any "remnants" out of which to make a dress for his wife. Mr. Michaelson said he had many and in the result the Respondent bought the lot for £22, and they were packed into a single bale. The contents were pieces of cloth, stockinet, and linings; the bale is referred to in the evidence as "a bale of cloth".

4

The Respondent paid cash for the whole purchase. He consigned the four bales, together with 23 other bales of waste bought from other sellers in Leicester, by carrier to his warehouse in Liverpool, describing the whole consignment, for the purpose of the carrier's charges, as "waste". Mr. Justice Stable considered that no sinister inference should be drawn from this misdescription. On Saturday, August 29th, the Liverpool Police (apparently having already some suspicion on grounds which were not alleged in the pleading or explained at the trial) examined the goods while in the hands of the carrier and so ascertained that one of the bales contained pieces of cloth and not mere "waste". It is possible that the interest of the Police was aroused because of war-time restrictions on the sale and purchase of cloth.

5

On the morning of Monday, August 31st, the Appellants secretly watched the unloading of the bales and their removal into the Respondent's warehouse by the back entrance. The Respondent was present and assisted in the work. He himself carried the bale of cloth inside and placed it near the door; the other bales which required to be weighed in order to check the purchases, were placed in another part of the premises. The Appellants now went round to the front door of the Warehouse, entered it without any search warrant, and told the Respondent they were making enquiries about a bale of cloth which had been delivered to him. The Respondent professed to know nothing about any cloth, and the Appellants set to work to search the premises. The Respondent asked if a search warrant was not necessary, but the Appellant Morris told him that he was "not exceeding his powers at all"�an assertion which seems quite contrary to the law. The Appellants, not being satisfied with the Respondent's explanation, arrested him on a charge of "unlawful possession" under the Liverpool Corporation Act of 1921 and took him in custody to the Essex Street Bridewell.

6

There can be no doubt that the Liverpool Act did not authorise this arrest at all. The Act does not use the term "unlawful possession", though this is the customary phrase used in connection with an infringement of the Act. The phrase is, in fact, somewhat misleading. The following provisions are included in Part II of the Act:

Section 507 (1) "Any person brought before any Court of summary jurisdiction charged with having in this possession anything which there is reasonable ground to believe or suspect has been stolen and ( sic) who does not account to the satisfaction of the Court for his possession of the same shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding five pounds or in the discretion of the Court to imprisonment for any term not exceeding two months with or without Hard Labour."

(2) "If any person so brought before any Court shall declare that he received such thing from some other person or that he was employed as a carrier, agent, or servant to convey the same for some other person, such Court shall cause such other person and also if necessary every former or pretended purchaser or other person through whose possession the same shall have passed to be brought before a Court and examined.�"

Sub-Section (5)

"For the purpose of this Section � the expression 'stolen' means stolen or unlawfully acquired or detained."

Section 513. (1) "It shall be lawful for any Police Constable and all such persons as he shall call to his assistance to arrest and detain without Warrant (1) any person whose name and residence shall be unknown to such Constable and cannot be then ascertained by him and who shall commit any offence against � the provisions of � this part of this Act."

7

Inasmuch as the Appellants knew the Respondent's name and also knew his place of residence in Southport where he had lived for the last eighteen years and moreover arrested him in his own warehouse in Beaufort Street, the Act manifestly gave the Appellants no right to arrest the Respondent for "unlawful possession" without a warrant.

8

What is surprising, and is a matter for severe comment, is that the Appellant Christie admitted at the trial that he knew at the time that he had no power to arrest without warrant under the Liverpool Act in the circumstances and that the arrest was nevertheless made on this charge because it was the "most convenient" course. It is much to be hoped that the Liverpool Police will be instructed not to disregard the limitations laid down by law in this connection again. In another aspect the Liverpool Act is a curious one, for the misdemeanour created by it only arises if the individual, when brought before the Magistrate, fails at that stage to account for what is in his possession; no offence, therefore, can be committed before he is brought before the Magistrate, and the power of the police to arrest and detain an individual (whether with or without a Magistrate's warrant, according to circumstances) is not a power to charge him with having committed the crime of "unlawful possession" (for up to that time he has not committed any breach of the Act) but rather a power to arrest and detain him if his name and residence are unknown to them...

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