A Public Role for the Intentional Torts

King's Law Journal, vol. 22, no. 1

30 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2010 Last revised: 17 Jul 2011

See all articles by Dan Priel

Dan Priel

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: September 3, 2010


The recent litigation that ended in the House of Lords’ decision in Ashley v. Chief Constable of Sussex Police has brought the intentional torts back to the focus of judicial attention. Most commentary on this decision has focused on a few dicta that purport to support a reading the decision as concerned with private vindication of rights. In this article I examine this decision against a broad shift that has been taking place within tort law, and in particular the tort of negligence, away from ‘private law’ concern with the particular individuals involved in the litigation and towards broader ‘public’ concerns. After describing this shift in the case of negligence, I consider three possible private law interpretations of the role of the intentional torts. I argue that they are all deficient. I then highlight an aspect of Ashley that has been ignored by other commentators and which fits the public interpretation of tort law. I argue that this aspect provides a more convincing explanation for the decision, and one that aligns the intentional torts with the rest of tort law.

Keywords: Tort Law, Public Law, Private Law, Vindication Of Rights, Trespass, Intentional Torts

Suggested Citation

Priel, Dan, A Public Role for the Intentional Torts (September 3, 2010). King's Law Journal, vol. 22, no. 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1671546

Dan Priel (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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