Irving 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 to be the lawful owner. The claimant sued the defendant claiming ownership of the goods.
Held: The Court rejected the claim. Holroyd Pearce LJ said'[The 1897] Act was passed in substitution for an earlier Act, the Metropolitan Police Court Act, 1839, which by section 29 made similar provisions. It provides practical machinery to deal with a practical situation. Although the Act does not, until the expiration of six months, affect the right of any person to take proceedings, it does alter the fact of possession. When an order has been made by a tribunal under the Act for delivery of property to a claimant, the Act cannot have intended the claimant to remain a bailee for the former possessor. The claimant has, by due process of law, after inquiry, had physical possession transferred to him. It is still open to anyone during the ensuing six months to claim the goods from him, provided that the claimant can establish his right to do so. Had the Act intended, it could have preserved the prior rights of possession in the former possessor. But it has not done so, and previous possession of goods now in the hands of another does not raise a presumption of present title in the previous owner, unless the person who has received them from him has done so as a wrongdoer or as agent of bailee of the previous owner. . . This view of the matter is in accordance with the dictum of Cockburn CJ in [Buckley].’ and ‘under this Act of 1897 . . . the plaintiff can no longer rely on a presumption from his previous possession. Therefore the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that he is entitled to the notes or to damages for their conversion. If he cannot discharge that burden he fails in the action. The judge rightly held that his story on that matter was not to be believed, and that he failed to discharge the onus or proof. I entirely agree with the judgment of the judge.’
References: [1962] 2 QB 73
Judges: Holroyd Pearce LJ
Statutes: Police (Property) Act 1897
Jurisdiction: England and Wales
This case cites:

  • Cited – Buckley 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 . .
    ((1863) 3B and S 556)
  • Cited – Betts 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 . .
    ([1932] 2 KB 595)

This case is cited by:

  • Cited – 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 . .
    (, [2001] EWCA Civ 381, [2001] 1 WLR 1437, [2001] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 216, [2001] 3 All ER 150)

These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 27 November 2020; Ref: scu.194104