Property is theft — R (Best) v Chief Land Registrar

In the case of R (Best) v Chief Land Registrar, the High Court has held that a criminal squatter was entitled to use his period of criminal squatting to acquire adverse possession of a residential property, this despite the criminal activity and the general proposition that a criminal should not profit from his crime (ex turpi causa).

Squatting in residential property was criminalised by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, although it remains only a civil offence in respect of commercial property. It has generally been considered that a criminal should not be able to benefit from his dishonourable activity in bringing a legal claim. Therefore, while it has been possible for squatters to acquire title to the property they are squatting in by way of adverse possession (i.e. possessing the property to the exclusion of all others and without consent), it had been considered that the criminalisation of residential squatting would prevent a squatter from becoming a title holder…

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