Costello v Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary: CA 22 Mar 2001

The police seized a car from Mr Costello, believing that it was stolen. The seizure was lawful at the time, by virtue of section 19 of PACE. The police never brought any criminal proceedings against Mr Costello, but they refused to return the car to him, arguing that it had been stolen and that that justified them in retaining it. Mr Costello sued in the County Court for recovery of the car. At first instance the claim failed, but the decision was reversed on appeal.
Held: sections 19 and 22 of PACE vested in the police ‘no title to the property seized but only a temporary right to retain property for the specified statutory purposes’. Once those purposes were exhausted (as it was common ground they had been), Mr Costello, whether he was the true owner of the car or not, had a right of possession of it which was superior to any right of possession on the part of the police.


Robert Walker, Keene LJJ, Lightman J


[2001] EWCA Civ 381, [2001] 1 WLR 1437, [2001] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 216, [2001] 3 All ER 150




Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 19 22


England and Wales


FollowedWebb v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police CA 26-Nov-1999
The Police had confiscated money suspected to be the proceeds of drug trafficking, but no offence was proved. The magistrates had refused to return the money under the 1897 Act. The claimants now sought to reciver it under civil proceedings.
CitedMalone v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis (No 2) ChD 28-Feb-1979
The court considered the lawfulness of telephone tapping. The issue arose following a trial in which the prosecution had admitted the interception of the plaintiff’s telephone conversations under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State. The . .
CitedTinsley v Milligan HL 28-Jun-1993
Two women parties used funds generated by a joint business venture to buy a house in which they lived together. It was vested in the sole name of the plaintiff but on the understanding that they were joint beneficial owners. The purpose of the . .
CitedCurtis v Perry 10-Mar-1802
Fraudulent Registrations Ineffective
Ships had been purchased by a partnership, but were then held separately in the name of one of them. Only later were they included within the partnership accounts, but the separate registrations were maintained, and unlawfully so as to avoid them . .
CitedBowmakers Ltd v Barnet Instruments Ltd CA 1945
An action was brought for the wrongful conversion of machine tools delivered under hire purchase agreements which contravened wartime statutory orders. The plaintiff established its legal title to the goods at issue without relying upon the illegal . .
CitedBuckley v Gross 1863
The court had to decide the ownership of of tallow which had been kept at warehouses. In a fire; it melted and flowed down the sewers into the river where part of it was collected by a man with no right to it; and he sold it to the claimant. The . .
CitedField v Sullivan 1923
(Supreme Court of Victoria) The claimant claimed return of goods seized by the police believing them to be stolen. The theft was not established and the claimant as the party in possession at the time of the seizure was held entitled to their . .
CitedSolomon v Metropolitan Police Commissioner 1982
Public policy and the doctrine of ‘ex turpi culpa non oritur actio’ preclude a thief from recovery of items from the police. . .
CitedIrving v National Provincial Bank CA 1962
Goods were seized by the police from the claimant. Neither the claimant nor the defendant could establish that they were the true owners. Under section 1 the first court directed the goods to be delivered to the defendant as the person who appeared . .
CitedParker v BA Board 1982
The rights and obligations of a finder were considered. The court explained the balancing exercise required of the law when deciding to whom property should be returned and how the balance should be struck: ‘The rule as stated by Pratt CJ must be . .
CitedRowland v Divall CA 1923
A car dealer had bought a car to which the seller had no title.
Held: The dealer succeeded in his claim to recover the purchase price on the ground of total failure of consideration. The vendor had gone through the motions of performance of . .
CitedBetts v Receiver of Metropolitan Police District and Carter Paterson and Co Ltd 1932
The police seized from the claimant certain cloth believing it to be stolen from Carter Paterson and delivered it to Carter Paterson, without any order under the 1897 Act. The claimant sued the receiver and Carter Paterson.
Held: Since the . .

Cited by:

CitedMorgan, Regina (on the Application of) v Justices of Dyfed Powys Magistrates’ Court Admn 18-Jun-2003
Money had been taken by the Police, but after the applicants had been acquitted, they sought it to be returned. Their action was struck out after long delays. They applied to the Magistrates who turned down the application.
Held: The money . .
CitedGough and Another v The Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police CA 2-Mar-2004
The claimants sought return of vehicle parts from the police. The police replied that the goods had been tampered with in such a way as to suggest they may have been stolen, and that they were therefore kept, even after the finish of the court . .
CitedScopelight Ltd and Others v Chief of Police for Northumbria CA 5-Nov-2009
The claimant sought return of items removed by the defendants under the 1984 Act. A decision had been made against a prosecution by the police. The police wished to hold onto the items to allow a decision from the second defendant.
Held: The . .
CitedMerseyside Police v Owens Admn 31-May-2012
The police had refused to returns items seized from Mr Owens on the basis that to do so would indirectly encourage and assist him in suspected criminal activity. CCTV footage had been removed from him to attempt identify an arsonist of a house.The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 31 May 2022; Ref: scu.147481