Roberts v Crown Estate Commissioners: CA 20 Feb 2008

The commissioners sought to claim title to a foreshore by adverse possession. The claimant asserted that he had acquired title in his capacity of Lord Marcher of Magor which had owned the bed of the estuary since the Norman Conquest, and that the Crown could not acquire title by adverse possession, by a wrong against a subject. The Crown argued that section 37 applied the law equally to actions by or against the Crown.
Held: The claim failed. ‘Quite apart from the express provision putting the Crown on the same footing as its subjects in matters of limitation, the general purpose and policy of setting time limits on actions for the recovery of land by the paper title owner (the protection of long continued possession of land in the public interest of certainty and stability, and the protection of defendants against the injustice of stale claims, which become more difficult to rebut with the loss of evidence in the passage of time) apply to land in the possession of the Crown as much as they apply in the case of land in the possession of another subject. ‘ and ‘if contrary to my opinion, there ever was a constitutional principle or rule limiting the right of the Crown to acquire title to land by adverse possession, it ceased to exist by reason of the combined effect of the 1947 Act and the 1939 Act. As against another subject, a subject can obtain adverse possession of land having a root in an unlawful entry into possession. The same law that applies between subjects applies as between the Crown and its subjects. ‘
[2008] EWCA Civ 98, [2008] 2 P and CR 1, [2008] 8 EG 157, [2008] Ch 439, [2008] 2 WLR 1111, [2008] 1 EGLR 129, [2008] 1 WLR 1111, [2008] NPC 21
Limitation Act 1980 37(1), Crown Proceedings Act 1947 2(1)(a), Magna Carta 29
England and Wales
CitedJ A Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Others v Graham and Another HL 4-Jul-2002
The claimants sought ownership by adverse possession of land. Once the paper owner had been found, they indicated a readiness to purchase their interest. The court had found that this letter contradicted an animus possidendi. The claimant had . .
CitedCase of the Duchy of Lancaster 1561
Queen Elizabeth I wished to know whether a lease granted by Edward VI of some land within the Duchy while under the age of 21 (‘during his nonage’) was voidable.
Held: It was not voidable. The king’s natural body was inseparable from his body . .
CitedAttorney-General v Tomline (No 3) ChD 1877
For more than 20 years the Crown had been in possession of land forming part of a manor in Suffolk owned in fee simple by Colonel Tomline, who then entered the land in order to dig out mineral material (coprolites-fossilised dinosaur dung). The . .
CitedMcDonnell v McKinty 1847
Discontinuance of possession of land can occur where the paper title owner having abandoned possession, actual possession is taken by another person in whose favour or for whose protection the Limitation Act could operate. . .
CitedFriend v Duke of Richmond 1667
Two subjects brought action for ejectment. The defendant took the point that the claimant could not sue in ejectment. It was necessary to allege entry by a tenant. There could not be an entry, as the Crown had already obtained a judgment based on an . .
CitedGoodman v Mayor of Saltash HL 1882
A gift was made of a right to fish to the freemen of the Borough of Saltash.
Held: The gift was as valid as a charitable gift as would be a gift to the inhabitants of the locality in general. When long and continuous enjoyment is established, . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 May 2021; Ref: scu.264635