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LB Hounslow v Devanney

13th December 2012

The Claimant (C) was the freehold owner of land on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport. The Defendant (D) had without C’s consent erected a number of structures upon that land and was trading from a mobile catering unit. C sought possession of the land; D defended on the basis that he had acquired the land by adverse possession having been in continuous possession of the land since 1990/1991. At trial, C adduced a witness who gave evidence that D was not in possession for periods between 1999 and 2003 and further adduced satellite images in support.

D, acting in person, appealed, on the basis that the satellite images were misleading and/or could not be properly relied upon by the Judge and sought to adduce fresh evidence showing that a key image had to be wrong. Permission was refused by Lord Neuberger MR on the papers; Tomlinson LJ was persuaded to grant permission at an oral re-hearing (at which only D was present), having been persuaded by D that some serious injustice might have occurred.

Held

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. There was no proper challenge to the findings of the trial judge on the evidence or reason to doubt the veracity of the satellite image. Even if D were correct and the photograph had been doctored by pasting in the roundabout, the image still did not show D on C’s land at the material time.

Comment 

It goes without saying that the use of historic satellite images is a very important tool in many adverse possession cases; properly evidenced (here the persons who had acquired the images gave evidence as to their veracity and the metadata for those images, confirming their dates, was adduced), they are very difficult indeed to challenge.

The case also illustrates the increasing workload of the Courts resulting from the need to accommodate increasing numbers of litigants in person!

For further information please refer to the full judgment LB Hounslow v Devanney [2012] EWCA Civ 1660

Update: On 24 October 2013, permission to appeal was refused by the Supreme Court.

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