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Court of Appeal hands down judgment in Chief Land Registrar v Franks and Bedward

In Chief Land Registrar v Franks and Bedward [2011] EWCA Civ 772 (Judgment 7/7/11) the Court of Appeal decided that the High Court, on appeal from the Adjudicator to the Land Registry, has the power to order that an application to the Land Registry that was cancelled by order of the Adjudicator be retrospectively reinstated as if it had not been cancelled. 

Daniel Gatty and Philip Fellows acted for the successful Respondents, Mr and Mrs Franks, in the Court of Appeal through the auspices of the Bar Pro Bono Unit.

Mr and Mrs Franks had made an application to the Land Registry to register a strip of land within Mr and Mrs Bedward’s title on the grounds of adverse possession.  The Adjudicator directed that their application be cancelled for breach of an unless order; the Land Registry had acted on the direction by the time that the Adjudicator’s order came to Mr and Mrs Franks’ attention.  Acting in person, Mr and Mrs Franks appealed to the High Court successfully.  Briggs J. directed that their application be reinstated to the day list (a database of pending actions maintained by the Land Registry) with effect from the day on which it was made, thereby preserving its priority over any subsequent applications to the Land Registry regarding the land in question.

The Land Registry, as intervener in the case, appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the High Court only had the power to direct that the application be reinstated as if it were a new application made on the date of the order allowing the appeal – depriving it of the priority that it would have had over intervening applications if it had not been cancelled. 

The Court of Appeal, by a majority of two to one, upheld the judgment of Briggs J.  Rimer LJ, with whom Toulson LJ agreed, held that the High Court on appeal did have power to order retrospective reinstatement, albeit that it should not ordinarily do so if a third party had obtained an interest in the land in question during the period between cancellation and the hearing of the appeal.  The appeal from Briggs J. was, therefore, dismissed.