DAMAGES FOR MALICIOUS PROSECUTION
The law has provided some damages for an issue that has become a serious problem in the legal system of today which is “malicious prosecution”. In the course of this study, we will analyze them (the damages for malicious prosecution) for a better understanding.
The tort of malicious prosecution is committed where the defendant maliciously and without reasonable and probable cause initiates against the plaintiff a criminal prosecution which terminates in the plaintiff’s favour, and which may also result in damage to the plaintiff’s reputation, person or property.
There are essentials or should I say basic things that are needed to be proved in the tort of malicious prosecution. These essentials are:
- That the defendant instituted a prosecution against him: Lewis J.S.C. said in the Supreme Court case of Mandilas & Karabens Ltd v Apena  N.M.L.R. 1999, at p. 203
“In our view, it is clear from Danby v Beardsly  43 L.T. 603 that, to succeed, the plaintiff must show that it was the defendant who was actively instrumental in setting the law in motion against him (the plaintiff).”
- That the prosecution ended in the plaintiff’s favour: The second requirement for a successful action in malicious prosecution is that the prosecution of which the plaintiff complains ended in his favour. But in a case of criminal charge, there are requirements that must be satisfied before this particular action can be proved (this will be treated in another article).
- That the defendant had no reasonable and probable cause for prosecution: This third requirement is perhaps one of the hardest to satisfy. It has to involve proof of a negative by the plaintiff, which is a notoriously difficult task. This was seen in the case of Abrath v North Eastern Ry  11 Q.B.D. 400. But you must note that the best-known definition of “reasonable and probable case” is an honest belief in the mind of the accused based upon a full conviction, founded upon reasonable grounds, of the existence of circumstances, by which, assuming them to be true, would reasonable lead any ordinary prudent and cautious man, placed in the position of the accuser, to the conclusion that the person charged was probably guilty of the crime imputed. This was seen in an old case of Hicks v Faulkner  8 Q.B.D. 167, at p. 171.
- That the defendant acted with malice: Malice in this tort has a wilder meaning than “spite”, “ill-will or desire for vengeance”, for it include any proper purpose or any “motive other than that of simply instituting a prosecution for the purpose of bringing a person to justice”. And it was explained very well in the case of Stevens v Midland Countries Ry. Co  E.R. 48.
- That he (the plaintiff) suffered damage to his reputation, person or property: Finally, the plaintiff must in all cases show that the prosecution brought against him has caused damages either
- To his fame
- To his person; or
- To his property.
If there is no damage to any of these, his action will fail. This was explained better in the case of Savile v Roberts [1555-1774] All E.R. Rep. 456.
This will now lead us to the damages for malicious prosecution. Malicious prosecution is not actionable, unless damage to the plaintiff’s fame, person or property is proved. Once such damage is established, however, the heads under which damages are assessed are similar to those used in action for false imprisonment. This, the plaintiff may recover compensation for any detention to which he has been subjected, for inquiry to his reputation, and for the injury to his feelings (that is, for the indignity, disgrace and humiliation resulting from the charge being brought against him). He may also recover for any consequential loss of business or employment.
This is simply the damages for malicious prosecution but you must note that the essentials that are needed to prove an action for malicious prosecution are proved. That is when the Court can now grant you the required damages for the person’s loss.