Mcfadzean v CFMEU

Mcfadzean v CFMEU [2007]: A Case Summary

Mcfadzean v CFMEU is a case on the tort of false imprisonment. Some environmentalists took part in anti-logging protests and were allegedly imprisoned by logging workers.

Given below are the case details:

Case name & citation:McFadzean v Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union [2007] VSCA 289; (2007) 20 VR 250
Court:Supreme Court of Victoria (Court of Appeal)
Decided on:13 December 2007
The bench of judges:Warren CJ, Nettle and Redlich JJA
Area of law:False imprisonment

Facts of Mcfadzean v CFMEU

The appellants were a group of protestors who were protesting against logging in a Victorian forest area.

The defendants (logging workers) set up a picket line near the protest site to prevent the protestors from leaving without permission. However, there was an alternative route through the bush for making the exit.


Were the group of protestors falsely imprisoned in the forest?

Judgment of the Court in Mcfadzean v CFMEU

The protestors could have called the police for assistance to escort them out but this did not mean that they were not falsely imprisoned until the release was effected. However, they could have also used another escape.

An alternative exit route through the bush was both available as well as reasonable. Though it involved a physically difficult walk out of the forest, it was still not an unreasonable means of egress.

Further, the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal found that the protestors had stayed in the forest not solely because of the defendants’ conduct but for their own reasons. They wanted to do their protest in order to stop logging.

They had their own reasons for remaining at the site, independent of the defendants’ actions.

Thus, the Court decided in favor of the defendants. The appellants were not falsely imprisoned.

Reasoning behind the decision

There can be no false imprisonment if there is a reasonable means of escape.

Quotes from the case

The judges stated as under:

“Be all that as it may, however, it remains that the essence of the action of false imprisonment is the compelling of a person to stay at a particular place against his or her will. Accordingly, where a plaintiff has full knowledge and comprehension of the defendant’s coercive conduct amounting to total restraint, the action depends upon proof that, were it not for the defendant’s conduct, the plaintiff would not have submitted to the restraint.  Consequently, it is not sufficient in law that conduct of the defendant has contributed to or influenced the plaintiff’s decision to remain unless the conduct has overborne the plaintiff’s will.  It must be shown that, but for the defendant’s conduct, the plaintiff would not have yielded to the total restraint; that the plaintiffs’ determination to remain was a coercive consequence of the defendant’s acts.”

“In each case, it is a question of fact as to whether a restriction is so severe as to be characterised as false imprisonment.  For example, if a victim is confined to an island, and the only means of egress is by swimming through dangerous waters to the mainland, there is no reasonable means of egress and the victim’s confinement to the island is likely to amount to false imprisonment.  If, however, there is a reasonable means of egress or escape from detention, the restriction may not be enough.  So, if a victim is confined to a room, and there is a reasonable means of egress through a door, the victim is in effect free to leave the room and there is no false imprisonment.”

(Warren CJ, Nettle and Redlich JJA at [41 & 42])

Refer to the full text of the case here:


Civil Trials Bench Book – Particular Proceedings – Intentional torts. The Judicial Commission of NSW. (n.d.).

University of Technology Sydney Law Research Series. AustLII. (n.d.).

Dls. (2022, June 5). McFadzean and Others v Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and Others: 13 Dec 2007.

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