Hatton V Connew (2013) – Establishing Boundary Issues

This is a complicated boundary dispute involving three distinct areas of Land, with arguments over extent of paper title, interpretation of documents, estoppel and expert evidence.  There is a fundamental evidence question that is herein addressed, which affects all such land law and other cases where evidence must be considered fairly and openly.

Hatton & Anor v Connew & Anor [2013] EWCA Civ 1560 (10 December2013)

Following a complicated legal case with adverse possession and boundary issues, a Circuit Judge’s discretion in respect of expert evidence together with his determination of the boundaries put one party at an unfair advantage.  The claimant was represented by an expert and the defendants represented themselves.

The Circuit Judge visited the site in order to have a clearer understanding of the site and the issues involved and, whilst at the site, spoke to the Claimant’s expert and discussed the issues.

No proper record of the conversation was taken and the Circuit Judge consequently ruled, without discussion with the parties, that no evidence was required to be heard in court. As a consequence, no cross-examination of the expert was possible and the Judge found in favour of the claimant.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal who overturned the decision, holding that there was a serious procedural irregularity in the way the judge had conducted the trial. Two serious procedural irregularities were identified.

This case affects the operating of a fair hearing in not only Land Law, but in most other areas of the law.

LCB                                                                                                                                        10.2.14

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