Trespass to the person

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Trespass to the person is any interference with a person's right to bodily integrity and liberty. There are three forms of trespass to the person: (i) assault (i.e. any act that directly and intentionally causes another person to reasonably apprehend that a battery is about to be inflicted by the perpetrator of the act); battery (i.e. any direct and intentional application of physical force to the person of another without lawful justification); (iii) false imprisonment (i.e. any act that directly and intentionally places a total restraint upon the claimant's freedom of movement without lawful justification). A residual fourth trespass that may also be included is the following: (iv) intentional infliction of indirect harm (i.e. any act or a statement willfully performed by the tortfeasor that is calculated to cause, and actually does cause, physical harm to the claimant). However, the increasing reliance on negligence as a cause of action during the latter half of the twentieth century had the effect of diminishing the importance of this particular tort, although there are still cases where it is the cause of action.

Trespass to the person is a tort as well as a criminal offence. Traditionally, it was always possible for a victim of the crimes of assault, battery or false imprisonment to bring civil proceedings against the perpetrator of any such act, regardless of whether the state was to proceed with criminal prosecution of the offender. However, under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, it is now necessary to apply for leave of the court before initiating a civil action in trespass to the person, and the court may give leave only if the offender's acts were 'grossly disproportionate' to the circumstances. This change to the law is designed to prevent people who are injured in the course of committing crimes from taking out civil actions against their victims.

See also offences against the person, assault, battery, false imprisonment.