Robert Strang Instructed by BDB Pitmans LLP (London) for the Appellant
Rowan Pennington-Benton Instructed by Duke Street Chambers (Trinidad) for the Respondents
Lord Lloyd-Jones (with whom Lord Briggs, Lord Hamblen, Lady Rose and Lord Richards agree):
This appeal concerns a dispute over title to a parcel of land (“the disputed land”) measuring approximately 7 acres, at Tyrell Bay on the western coast of the island of Carriacou which lies to the north east of Grenada.
On land to the south and south west of the disputed land, and immediately adjacent to it (“the CDC land”) Carriacou Devcor Limited (“CDC”) is developing a new marina and associated jetties. By a lease dated 4 January 2005 made between CDC and the Governor General of Grenada on behalf of the Government of Grenada, the Government leased the CDC land to CDC for the first phase of the development. With this lease was included a plan prepared by Mr Denis Thomas, a local surveyor, on 2 April 2003, depicting inter alia the CDC land (“the CDC plan 2003”).
In about 2013 CDC asked the Government for more land for the purposes of the development. At the request of CDC, Mr Thomas surveyed the mangrove swamp to the north of the CDC land and produced a plan on 13 March 2013, (“the March 2013 plan”) depicting the disputed land as an area of about 7 acres, bounded to the north by land belonging to Theodore Alexis (“the Alexis land”) and to the east by land belonging to the estate of Rufus Lendore (“the Lendore land”). On 6 May 2013 the Cabinet approved the grant of a lease to CDC of the disputed land. CDC was informed of the decision by letter dated 28 May 2013 from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. On 29 May 2013 CDC entered the disputed lands and began construction on it.
The respondents to the present appeal are the personal representatives of the estate of Samuel Corion, deceased. On 20 June 2013, attorneys acting on behalf of the estate wrote to CDC alleging that the disputed land formed part of the estate of Samuel Corion and demanding that it cease its alleged acts of trespass. It complained that CDC was removing vegetation and filling in the natural mangrove swamp without the permission or consent of the estate. Attorneys acting for CDC responded, contending that the disputed land was owned in fee simple by the Government of Grenada and stating that CDC was the prospective lessee of the disputed land.
The respondents maintain that the disputed land formed part of the Grand Ance estate which, by deed made on 18 June 1885 (“the 1885 conveyance”), was conveyed to certain beneficiaries of the will of Judith Philip. The land conveyed was described in the deed as a parcel of land “containing one hundred and sixty acres or thereabouts and now known as the Grand Ance estate”. The boundaries of the parcel of land were not described and there was no plan.
On 3 May 1904, a survey plan was produced of the Harvey Vale estate situated immediately to the south of the Grand Ance estate (“the 1904 plan”). This survey was made by order of the Director of Surveys and lodged in accordance with the Grenada Boundaries Settlement Ordinance (No 2 of 1892).
By an indenture dated 19 February 1914 the Grand Ance estate was conveyed to Samuel Corion (“the 1914 conveyance”). The land conveyed was described as “all that Plantation or Estate lot piece or parcel of land called and known by the name of Grand Ance situate and lying in the quarter of Grand Carenage in the island of Carriacou … containing one hundred and six and one half (106½) acres English Statute Measure be the same more or less …”. The boundaries were not described and there was no plan.
By a claim form dated 15 July 2014, the respondents issued a claim against CDC seeking a declaration that the estate of Samuel Corion was the owner of the disputed land, injunctive relief, damages and mesne profits for trespass. By an application of the same date, the respondents applied for an interim injunction restraining CDC from entering or remaining on the disputed lands and from carrying on construction and filling in the mangrove swamp on the disputed land. By order dated 5 August 2014, Margaret Mohammed J dismissed the respondents’ application for an interim injunction, holding, among other things, that there was no serious issue to be tried as the respondents had failed to provide sufficient evidence as to title.
By a defence dated 15 October 2014, CDC denied the respondents’ title to the disputed land. It averred that the disputed land was the property of the Crown and that CDC’s occupation of the disputed land, pursuant to the Cabinet decision, was lawful. CDC put the respondents to strict proof of the title and boundaries of the land they claimed.
By an amended claim form and statement of case dated 31 October 2014, the respondents amended their claim to aver that the estate of Samuel Corion had been in full, free and undisturbed possession of the disputed land and sought a declaration that the estate of Samuel Corion was the owner in possession of the disputed land.