Cobham v Frett: PC 18 Dec 2000

(British Virgin Islands) Two issues arose. First, what was the consequence of inordinate delay between a judge hearing a case and giving his decision, and secondly, how was the law of adverse possession to be applied in cases of interrupted or intermittent occupation. The parties had had resolved a dispute as to the ownership of land, but the winner moved to England, and the neighbour began acts to retake the land. The action to retake the land was heard, but judgement was not given until over a year after the hearing.
Held: There was a suggestion that the judge had misremembered some of the evidence, but his notes were detailed, and there was no evidence that the delay had actually effected the judgement. Such would have to be shown to justify setting aside a judgement on this ground. Similarly the judge’s analysis of the law was correct.
Legatt LJ said: ‘As to demeanour, two things can be said. First, in their Lordships’ collective experience, a judge re-reading his notes of evidence after the elapse of a considerable period of time can expect, if the notes are of the requisite quality, his impressions of the witnesses to be revived by the re-reading. Second, every experienced judge, and Georges J was certainly that, is likely to make notes as a trial progresses recording the impressions being made on him by the witnesses. Notes of this character would not, without the judge’s permission or special request being made to him, form part of the record on an appeal. They might be couched in language quite unsuitable for public record.’


Lord Slynn of Hadley Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Scott of Foscote Sir Ivor Richardson The Rt. Hon. Edward Zacca


Times 24-Jan-2001, [2000] UKPC 49, [2001] 1 WLR 1775


Bailii, PC, PC


England and Wales


CitedGoose v Wilson Sandford and Co and Mainon CA 13-Feb-1998
A judge was properly criticised for failing to write up a judgment when the witness’ evidence was still fresh in his mind. A two year delay required a re-trial.
Peter Gibson LJ explained the potential effect of delay on the formulation and . .
CitedWest Bank Estates Ltd v Arthur PC 1967
(From Federal Supreme Court of the West Indies) A claim was made for possessory title to a strip of land, based upon acts of cultivation, the cutting of timber, wood and grass, fishing and growing rice. The trial judge disallowed the claim to a . .

Cited by:

CitedBoodhoo, Jagram, (suing on behalf of themselves and the Sanatan Dharma Sudhar Sadha) v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago PC 1-Apr-2004
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The complainant said that his constitutional rights had been infringed by the court’s delay. Proceedings had begun in 1987 for redress with regard to a land dispute. There was substantial . .
CitedBangs v Connex South Eastern Ltd CA 27-Jan-2005
The failure of a tribunal to promulgate its decision was a matter of fact not of law, and could not therefore itself be a ground of appeal to the EAT. The EAT had allowed an appeal on the fair trial provision of the Convention. A failure to . .
CitedBond v Dunster Properties Ltd and Others CA 21-Apr-2011
The defendant appealed against the judge’s findings as to fact delivered some 22 months after the hearing.
Held: The appeal failed. Though such a delay must require the court carefully to investigate the judgment, it did not of itself . .
CitedSS (Sri Lanka), Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for The Home Department CA 15-Jun-2018
The court was asked whether, in cases heard by the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) where the credibility of the appellant is in issue, there is a rule that a delay of more than three months between the hearing of oral evidence . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Land, Litigation Practice

Updated: 24 November 2022; Ref: scu.163263