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Tower Hamlets LBC v Bromley LBC [2015] EWHC 1954 (Ch)

TRANSFERS OF LAND - CHATTELS – CONVERSION – LIMITATION ACT 1980, S.3(1) – EXTINGUISHMENT OF TITLE

Facts

A Henry Moore sculpture was purchased by London County Council in 1962. That organisation was subsequently abolished and replaced by the Greater London Council (GLC), who took ownership of the statue. The housing estate in which the statue had been placed was then transferred into ownership of Tower Hamlets LBC, the claimant housing authority. The GLC was itself then subsequently wound up and all its residuary property vested in B, the defendant housing authority. A dispute arose as to which authority was the true owner of the statue, as C wished to sell it in order to offset budget cuts whilst B sought to keep the statue for public display.

Issue

The court was required to determine whether (1) according to the terms of the various property transfers the statue had vested legally in C or B, and (2) whether, if the first question had been answered in favour of B, C had effectively concerted the statue to its use so that s.3(1) of the Limitation Act 1980 would apply.

Held

The court, finding in favour of C, determined that, in the circumstances, ownership of the statue had not, in fact, passed to C. However, as C had asserted rights of dominion over the statue in lending it out and undertaking restoration work meant that C had committed the tort of conversion; as B had not brought an action in tort s.3(2) of the Limitation Act 1980 applied and B’s title had therefore been extinguished.


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