QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|- and -
|THE CHIEF LAND REGISTRAR
- and -
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR JUSTICE
Mr Jonathan Karas QC and Ms Katrina Yates (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the Defendant
Mr David Forsdick (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the Interested Party (by written submissions)
Hearing dates: 18th and 19th February 2014
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Ouseley:
The grounds of challenge
The statutory provisions
"(1) If, on the entry of a person in the register as the proprietor of a legal estate, the legal estate would not otherwise be vested in him, it shall be deemed to be vested in him as a result of the registration".
Thus the register and not possession is the root of title to registered land.
"(1) No period of limitation under section 15 of the Limitation Act 1980 (c. 58) (time limits in relation to recovery of land) shall run against any person, other than a chargee, in relation to an estate in land or rent charge the title to which is registered.
(3) Accordingly, section 17 of that Act (extinction of title on expiry of time limit) does not operate to extinguish the title of any person where, by virtue of this section, a period of limitation does not run against him".
The Limitation Act time limits only operate now in relation to unregistered land.
"(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,
(b) the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and
(c) the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.
(2) The offence is not committed by a person holding over after the end of a lease or licence (even if the person leaves and re-enters the building).
(3) For the purposes of this section—
(a) "building" includes any structure or part of a structure (including a temporary or moveable structure), and
(b) a building is "residential" if it is designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live.
(4) For the purposes of this section the fact that a person derives title from a trespasser, or has the permission of a trespasser, does not prevent the person from being a trespasser.
(5) A person convicted of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (or both).
(6) In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the reference in subsection (5) to 51 weeks is to be read as a reference to 6 months.
(7) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) it is irrelevant whether the person entered the building as a trespasser before or after the commencement of this section".
Ground 1: Does s144 LASPOA affect adverse possession under the LRA 2002?
Discussion and conclusions on ground 1
"From these authorities the following propositions emerge:
(1) Property in chattels and land can pass under a contract which is illegal and therefore would have been unenforceable as a contract;
(2) A plaintiff can at law enforce property rights so acquired provided that he does not need to rely on the illegal contract for any purpose other than providing the basis of his claim to a property right;
(3) It is irrelevant that the illegality of the underlying agreement was either pleaded or emerged in evidence: if the plaintiff has acquired legal title under the illegal contract that is enough."
"The objection, that a contract is immoral or illegal as between plaintiff and defendant, sounds at all times very ill in the mouth of the defendant. It is not for his sake, however, that the objection is ever allowed; but it is founded in general principles of policy, which the defendant has the advantage of, contrary to the real justice as between him and the plaintiff, by accident, if I may so say. The principle of public policy is this; ex dolo malo non oritur actio. No court will lend its aid to a man who founds his cause of action upon an immoral or an illegal act. If, from the plaintiff's own stating or otherwise, the cause of action appears to arise ex turpi causâ, or the transgression of a positive law of this country, there the court says he has no right to be assisted. It is upon that ground the court goes; not for the sake of the defendant, but because they will not lend their aid to such a plaintiff. So if the plaintiff and defendant were to change sides, and the defendant was to bring his action against the plaintiff, the latter would then have the advantage of it; for where both are equally in fault, potior est conditio defendentis.
The policy can be subdivided into two principles in relation to contractual obligations:
(i) The court will not enforce a contract which is expressly or impliedly forbidden by statute or that is entered into with the intention of committing an illegal act.
(ii) The court will not assist a claimant to recover a benefit from his own wrongdoing."
"I accept that, at the end of the day, the issue is one of public policy. It is accepted, however, that a prescriptive right, or a right under the lost modern grant fiction, can be obtained by long use that throughout was illegal in the sense of bring tortious. That is how prescription operates. Public policy does not prevent conduct illegal in that sense from leading to the acquisition of property rights. The Hanning decision can only be justified on the footing that conduct illegal in a criminal sense is, for public policy purposes, different in kind from conduct illegal in a tortious sense. Why should that necessarily be so? Why, in particular, should it be so where the conduct in question is use of land that is not a criminal use of land against which the public law sets its face in all cases? It is criminal only because it is a user of land for which the landowner has given no "lawful authority". In that respect, the use of land made criminal by section 193(4) of the 1925 Act, or by section 34(1) of the 1988 Act, has much more in common with use of land that is illegal because it is tortious than with use of land that is illegal because it is criminal.
47. In my opinion, if an easement over land can be lawfully granted by the landowner the easement can be acquired either by prescription under section 2 of the 1832 Act or by the fiction of lost modern grant whether the use relied on is illegal in the criminal sense or merely in the tortious sense. I can see no valid reason of public policy to bar that acquisition. We have been referred to no case, pre Hanning, that decided the contrary. The decision in Hanning took the law, in my opinion, in a wrong direction".
"58. Dillon LJ (at p 20) also cited a general statement by Lord Maugham in George Legge & Son Ltd v Wenlock Corporation  AC 204, 222,
"There is, however, no case in the books in which repeated violation of the express terms of a modern statute passed in the public interest has been held to confer rights on the wrongdoer. Such a contention is indeed quite untenable."
I do not consider that that wide proposition has any application here, since a statutory prohibition in respect of which a private citizen has an unfettered dispensing power, exercisable if he thinks fit for his own private purposes, cannot easily be described as enacted in the public interest.
59. My Lords, in my view this House should not readily conclude that the decision of the Court of Appeal in Hanning was mistaken, especially as it has been followed, not only by the Court of Appeal in this case, but also on other occasions. Nevertheless I am satisfied that the wide formulations of the principle by Templeman LJ in Cargill v Gotts and by the Court of Appeal in Hanning, although producing the right result in the generality of cases, are too wide in a case like the present. That is not to say that the residents of houses near Newtown Common did not commit a criminal offence (of a fairly venial nature) when they drove across the common to and from their houses. The principle of legal certainty requires the criminality or lawfulness of an act to be determined at the time when it takes place, and not with the advantage (or disadvantage) of hindsight. Nevertheless the prior authority of the owner of the common would have provided a complete defence to any criminal charge. In the ordinary case of prescription of a private right of way, the prior authority of the landowner (in the solemn form of a grant by deed) is presumed or inferred from long user, even though every act of user during the prescription period takes place without his actual prior authority and is a tortious (though not a criminal) act. I cannot see that any public interest would be served by holding that the absence of the landowner's actual prior authority should produce a completely different result in cases where section 193(4) is in play".
"Under most systems of law a squatter who has been in long possession of land can acquire title to it in the place of the true owner. The Scots and continental systems, more faithful to the Roman law, have opted for prescription, a doctrine founded on the fiction that the land has been granted to the squatter. In England, prescription, although a shoot well favoured by the common law, was stunted in its lateral growth by the statutes of limitation, being confined in its maturity to the acquisition of easements and profits a prendre over another's land. Limitation, so far from being founded on some fictional grant, extinguishes the right of the true owner to recover the land, so that the squatter's possession becomes impregnable, giving him a title superior to all others.
The essential difference between prescription and limitation is that in the former case title can be acquired only by possession as of right. That is the antithesis of what is required for limitation, which perhaps can be described as possession as of wrong. It can readily be understood that with prescription the intention of the true owner may be of decisive importance, it being impossible to presume a grant by someone whose intention is shown to have been against it. But with limitation it is the intention of the squatter which is decisive. He must intend to possess the land to the exclusion of all the world, including the true owner, while the intention of the latter is, with one exception, entirely beside the point.
In order that title to land may be acquired by limitation, (1) the true owner must either (a) have been dispossessed, or (b) have discontinued his possession, of the land; and (2) the squatter must have been in adverse possession of it for the statutory period before action brought. Adopting the distinction between dispossession and discontinuance which was suggested by Fry J. in Rains v. Buxton  14 Ch. D. 537, at p.539, I take the first case to be one where the squatter comes in and drives out the true owner from possession and the second to be one where the true owner goes out of possession and is followed in by the squatter".
Ground 2: The effect of other acts of adverse possession
Ground 3: Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 ECHR