Law Report: Illegality no bar to property claim: Tinsley v Milligan - House of Lords (Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Lowry and Lord Browne-Wilkinson), 24 June 1993

A person claiming ownership of real property was entitled to recover even if the title on which he relied was used to facilitate an illegal transaction, provided he did not rely on the illegality. This was so whether the title he relied on was legal or equitable.

Where a claimant relied on the presumption of a resulting trust, ie, that two persons had jointly bought property registered in only one name, so that the named party held it in trust for them both, the claimant need only prove a contributory payment and a common intention upon which both of them acted, and was not forced to rely on an illegal plan thereby to defraud the Department of Social Security, and so could recover a share in the property's value.

The House of Lords by a majority dismissed an appeal by Stella Tinsley against the Court of Appeal decision ((1992) Ch 310) which, also by a majority, had (i) upheld the dismissal, by Judge Hywel ap Robert in Caerphilly County Court, of her claim for possession of 141 Thomas Street, Abertridwr, Mid-Glamorgan, and (ii) ruled that she held it on trust for the respondent, Kathleen Milligan, and herself in equal shares.

The house had been registered in the sole name of Miss Tinsley, but had been bought by the women jointly and run as a lodging house. They had agreed the legal title should be in Miss Tinsley's name to facilitate the making by Miss Milligan of false claims on the Department of Social Security (on the basis, inter alia, that she did not own her own home but was a lodger).

The parties later fell out and wished to sell the house. Miss Tinsley then asserted sole ownership, arguing that the court should not give effect to an equitable interest arising from a transaction which was unlawful by reason of a claimant's unlawful purpose; and that accordingly Miss Milligan was unable to establish any interest in the house or defeat Miss Tinsley's claim to possession.

James Munby QC and Alexander Hill-Smith (Blake Lapthorn, for Philip G Rees, Risca) for Miss Tinsley; Vernon Pugh QC and Philip Davies (Belmont & Lowe, for Hugh James Jones & Jenkins, Cardiff) for Miss Milligan.

LORD BROWNE-WILKINSON said it was clearly established that at law, as opposed to equity, property in goods or land could pass under or pursuant to an illegal contract. But Miss Tinsley contended that different principles applied in equity, and that equity would not aid Miss Milligan to enforce an equitable, as opposed to a legal, proprietary interest since, as a party to the fraud on the DSS, she did not come to equity with clean hands.

But to draw such distinctions between property rights enforceable at law and those requiring the intervention of equity was surprising more than 100 years after law and equity had become fused. In reality, English law in 1993 had one single law of property made up of legal and equitable interests. If a person could enforce a property right acquired under an illegal transaction, the same rule should apply to any property right so acquired, whether such right was legal or equitable.

Here, Miss Milligan claimed an interest in the house under a resulting trust, based not on contractual obligation but on a common intention, acted upon by the parties to their detriment. Where two parties bought a property conveyed into the name of only one of them, that party was presumed to hold the property on a resulting trust for both, in shares proportionate to their contributions.

If this presumption applied, the plaintiff did not have to rely on the illegality. If he proved the property was vested in the defendant alone but that he provided part of the purchase price, or voluntarily transferred money to the defendant, the plaintiff established his claim under a resulting trust unless the contrary was shown.

Here, Miss Milligan simply pleaded the common intention that the property should belong to them both and that she contributed to the purchase price. She was not forced to rely on the illegality to prove her equitable interest. It was Miss Tinsley who had to rely on the illegality.

Lord Jauncey and Lord Lowry concurred. Lord Goff and Lord Keith dissented.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements