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False imprisonment is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

What is the sentence for False imprisonment in 2022?

The offence of false imprisonment is sometimes referred to as ‘unlawful imprisonment, detention or custody’. The term ‘false imprisonment’ is used in the United States more often but does occasionally show up in the UK in reports and legal writings.

False imprisonment is classified as both a civil and a common-law offence. It’s a crime that has a handful of measures such as:

  • Restricting the movement of a person by taking intentional custody of a person
  • Restraining the person (possibly using restraints)

Being accused or charged with false imprisonment can be very alarming, even if you were involved in the act. There will be concerns about whether there will be imprisonment and separation from your family.

For those with dependents, there will be a concern that you won’t be able to provide them with the financial support that they need. Your liberty may be taken away from you, and you may well be imprisoned and expected to pay a fine.

We have put together some of the typical questions that our clients ask us when they are involved in an investigation into false imprisonment. We have also put the sentencing guidelines below.

It’s important to note that a solicitor who is experienced and competent may be able to avoid any court case at best, at worst there is potential for getting the prison sentence reduced.

Have you been charged or arrested for false imprisonment?  

You may have already been charged or arrested for the crime of false imprisonment. The impact of being involved in a crime and having to answer very probing questions can be very harsh for some people.

In this situation, you must seek legal help from a solicitor who has experience in the defending false imprisonment cases. The solicitor will listen to what has happened and advise you on what to say when the police interview you. He or she should accompany you to an interview.

Part of why having a solicitor with you at police interviews is so important is because they will demand to see any evidence that the police have on you. All evidence must be brought out into the open so that the lawyer can begin to develop a strong defence strategy. The evidence needs to be adequately examined by both your lawyer and forensic analysts to understand whether it’s a credible piece of evidence, or not. In many cases, the evidence has ‘holes’ in it, that can weaken it in the court environment.

What type of actions are considered false imprisonment?

Here are some examples of what false imprisonment or ‘unlawful detention’ looks like in the UK:

  • Somebody is locked into a room without their consent or by force
  • A person is held down by somebody so that they cannot leave
  • Being medicated by nursing home staff without consent
  • A person holds onto a valuable possession of another, knowing that the owner of that possession would not leave without it
  • A security guard or a storeowner detains somebody for an unreasonable amount of time for suspected theft
  • A policeman holding you in custody for an unreasonable amount of time

What is the average sentence for false imprisonment offences?

Depending on what happened, and what you are charged with, the maximum sentence for this offence is life imprisonment.

Here are the guidelines that judges and magistrates are given to decide what sentence to give.

The level of culpability is determined by weighing up all the factors of the case to determine the offender’s role and the extent to which the offending was planned and the sophistication with which it was carried out.

Culpability demonstrated by one or more of the following

A – High culpability

  • A leading role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Involvement of others through pressure, influence
  • Abuse of position of power or trust or responsibility
  • Sophisticated nature of offence/significant planning
  • Fraudulent activity conducted over sustained period of time
  • Large number of victims
  • Deliberately targeting victim on basis of vulnerability

B – Medium culpability

  • A significant role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Other cases that fall between categories A or C because:
    • Factors are present in A and C which balance each other out and/or
    • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in A and C

C – Lesser culpability

  • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Not motivated by personal gain
  • Peripheral role in organised fraud
  • Opportunistic ‘one-off’ offence; very little or no planning
  • Limited awareness or understanding of the extent of fraudulent activity

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the Court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.


Harm is initially assessed by the actual, intended or risked loss as may arise from the offence.

The values in the table below are to be used for actual or intended loss only.

Intended loss relates to offences where circumstances prevent the actual loss that is intended to be caused by the fraudulent activity.

Risk of loss (for instance in mortgage frauds) involves consideration of both the likelihood of harm occurring and the extent of it if it does. Risk of loss is less serious than actual or intended loss. Where the offence has caused risk of loss but no (or much less) actual loss the normal approach is to move down to the corresponding point in the next category. This may not be appropriate if either the likelihood or extent of risked loss is particularly high.

Harm A – Loss caused or intended
Category 1 £500,000 or more Starting point based on £1 million
Category 2 £100,000 – £500,000 or Risk of category 1 harm Starting point based on £300,000
Category 3 £20,000 – £100,000 or Risk of category 2 harm Starting point based on £50,000
Category 4 £5,000 – £20,000 or Risk of category 3 harm Starting point based on £12,500
Category 5 Less than £5,000 or Risk of category 4 harm Starting point based on £2,500

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the false imprisonment sentence?

When sentencing for false imprisonment, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for false imprisonment with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure;. However, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge, who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the Court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of false imprisonment offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a false imprisonment offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of false imprisonment include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

Besides, the Court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to Court and you are convicted of false imprisonment, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Stuart Miller Solicitors have accrued over thirty years of defending those accused of false imprisonment. During this time, we have secured many acquittals and in some cases, have had the case dismissed before it reaching the court stage.

Our legal team are known for having some of the sharpest and brightest minds. Working together so that every case benefits from having every angle uncovered, the team have also developed an extensive network of professionals related to the legal field. Some of the best Barristers, QCs and forensic analysts in the country work support Stuart Miller Solicitors in every case.

Our false imprisonment solicitors can help

No matter the size of your case, our false imprisonment lawyers can help. With over three decades of handling these types of affairs means that we know all of the defence angles of the false imprisonment or unlawful imprisonment, detention or custody legal field.

We understand how challenging it can be to have your future in the hands of the police. This being the case, you are assigned a case lawyer when you take us on who will ensure that you’re regularly updated with any development. Another fact is that situations like this can be very gruelling emotionally and mentally, and we do what we can to support every client.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

Either complete our contact form or call us on 0208 888 5225 to arrange a free thirty-minute no-obligation consultation with our false imprisonment legal experts. You will be able to share your concerns, ask about what the outcome may be in your unique situation and find out more about how we may be able to help you.

Get in touch with us now for possession of false imprisonment legal help.



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