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Wilkie v Redsell [2003] EWCA Civ 926

Claim for equitable relief denied by claimant’s own unconscionable conduct.

Facts:

The respondent, Wilkie, owned some land upon which the appellant, Redsell, repaired vehicles in return for paying rent. They entered into an oral agreement to sell part of the land to Redsell for £30,000. Shortly afterwards, Redsell was imprisoned for handling stolen vehicles during his occupation of the land. On his release he paid a taken amount off the purchase price for the land and built a house there but made no further payments. Wilkie demanded rent for the house, but none was ever received. Willkie sought possession of the land. This was granted by the trial judge. Redsell appealed.

Issues:

Wilkie claimed that by his conduct Redsell had repudiated the contract. Redsell sought for specific performance of the agreement for the sale of part of the land, claiming that he was either the legal or beneficial owner of that land.

Held:

The court held that there was no evidence that Redsell would have completed his side of the bargain. Therefore, he could not claim an equitable interest in the land or demand specific performance of the contract. The court also held that criminal offences did not per se bar the defendant from equitable relief unless it applied to the issue concerning the land. However, Redsell had told a court in his criminal trial that the land was not his. Buxton LJ said [at 34]:

‘he has abused the facilities of the court in relation to the very matter in respect of which he seeks relief.’

Therefore, his unconscionable conduct meant Redsell had not come to equity with clean hands and he was denied the equitable relief of specific performance.


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