Balmain Ferry v Robertson

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Citation: Balmain Ferry v Robertson (1906) 4 CLR 379.

This information can be found in the supplementary materials to LAWS1052 - Introducing Law & Justice.


Background facts

  • Plaintiff paid one penny to enter onto defendant’s wharf in order to catch a ferry.
  • Upon seeing that the next ferry would not leave for 20 minutes the plaintiff wished to leave the wharf but was prevented from doing so by a turnstile.
  • In order to pass through this turnstile he was require to pay another penny.
  • Only means of escape was via water.
  • Plaintiff refused to pay the penny and was forcibly prevented from leaving the wharf by an employee of the defendant’s company.


  • Plaintiff argued that he was falsely imprisoned.
  • Defendant argued that payment of another penny was reasonable means of escape.

Legal issues


  • In the circumstances, payment of a penny was a reasonable means of escape.
  • Escape by water was also reasonable.
  • Therefore: there will not be a total deprivation of liberty in cases where fulfilment of a person’s reasonable contractual obligations is a reasonable means of escape.


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