The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Friday, 24 January 2014

Metropolitan Railway Co v Delaney [1921] All ER Rep 301

What's the case about?
Early in the morning of 28 February 1919 Mr Delaney bought a ticket to travel from Aldgate to Kings Cross on the Metropolitan Railway. He walked down to the platform, where a train was waiting with its doors open. He boarded the train but as he went to take his seat the train started without warning. Mr Delaney lost his balance and fell, trapping his hand in the door and crushing it.

He brought a claim against the Metropolitan Railway Company, arguing that their negligence had caused his injuries. He won, but the Metropolitan Railway Company appealed, arguing that the trial judge had misunderstood the law and that there was no evidence of negligence for the jury to consider.

Where is it on the map?
At point W.

Who won?
Mr Delaney. The majority of the Law Lords held that a duty of care was owed and that there was sufficient evidence of negligence for the case to be put to the jury.

What's the principle of law?
As well as being an example of how the Law Lords applied their minds to the new technology of electric trains (the judgment contains much discussion about whether the word 'jerk' is a technical term), the case illustrates the differences between questions of law and questions of fact. In a jury trial, the judge will consider questions of law and the jury questions of fact. In a trial without a jury, the judge will consider both questions of law and fact.  Actions for negligence are no longer heard before a jury, but the distinction between law and fact is still relevant.

The question of law here was whether the Metropolitan Railway Company had a duty to start their train in a way that would be safe for passengers who were not yet seated and/or to warn passengers who were not yet seated if the train was about to start suddenly.

The question of fact was whether the Metropolitan Railway Company had started their train in a way that was not safe for passengers who were not yet seated, like Mr Delaney.  It was accepted by the Metropolitan Company that they had done nothing to warn passengers that the train was about to start.

Four out of the five Law Lords who heard the case agreed that the trial judge had considered the question of law correctly and that it was therefore correct to put the factual question to the jury. The one dissenting judge, Viscount Finlay, argued that people who used electric trains should know that they start with much less warning than a steam train and therefore no duty was owed to Mr Delaney.  

What's it like today?
The Metropolitan Railway Company's line is now known as the Metropolitan Line and is operated by Transport for London. Metropolitan Line trains still run between Aldgate and Kings Cross.  In the 1921 judgment, Lord Birkenhead talks about the trains travelling at about 20 miles per hour.  The Metropolitan Line train I took towards Kings Cross earlier this week didn't seem to go much faster.

As Aldgate is the final stop on the eastbound Metropolitan Line, trains do tend to wait there for a while before setting off.  But these days, as in other Underground stations, a pre-recorded message warns passengers when the trains are ready to depart and buzzers sound as the doors close.  Maybe Mr Delaney's crushed hand was the inspiration for these safety measures?

Here are some pictures I took at Aldgate Station:

You can view some more pictures, and an appreciation of Aldgate Station on the 150 great things about the underground blog.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Kings v Bultitude [2010] EWHC 1795

What’s the case about? 
Mrs Schroder, who described herself as ‘sole custodian of the Church of the Good Shepherd’ a non-traditional Catholic Church, died in 2008.  Mrs Schroder’s husband had been the head of the Church of the Good Shepherd from 1968 until his death in 1985. At one time there had been a few thousand members but by 2008 only a handful remained. From 1975 onwards the Church had leased the former Agapemonite Church in Rookwood Road as its place of worship.  The doors to the building at Rookwood Road were closed at the time of Mrs Schroder’s death and by 2010 it had been leased to the Georgian Orthodox Church. 

Mrs Schroder’s will, which was written in 1975, left the residue of her estate ‘to the Trustees of the Ancient Catholic Church known as the Church of the Good Shepherd, at present meeting at Rookwood Road, London’. 

The value of Mrs Schroder’s gift to the Church of the Good Shepherd was around £500,000, but there were a number of questions as to whether the gift was valid.  If not valid, the money would pass to others who stood to benefit from the will under the intestacy rules, including Mrs Bultitude, the defendant in the case. 

Where is it on the map? 
At point V. 

Who won? 
Mrs Bultitude.  The High Court held that Mrs Schroder’s gift was dependent on the Church of the Good Shepherd continuing to exist.  The Church no longer existed and therefore the gift failed and the money would pass to Mrs Bultitude and others under the intestacy rules. 

What’s the principle of law? 
It was accepted by all parties that the Church of the Good Shepherd was a charitable organisation.  For some background on when a religious organisation will be considered charitable, take a look at Gilmour v Coats and Neville v Madden, which also feature on the London Law Map. 

Special rules apply when a gift to a charity fails because the charity no longer exists.  If the Church of the Good Shepherd continued to exist after Mrs Schroder's death then the court could use the doctrine of cy-près (legal French for ‘close to’) to apply the money to a charity that most closely reflected the work of the church. 

If the Church of the Good Shepherd had already ceased to exist when the gift was made, the money could still be applied cy-près – providing Mrs Schroder’s will showed a ‘general charitable intention’.

The court held that by 2008 Mrs Schroder had become essential to the church’s activities: when she went on holiday, the building would be locked and there would be no services.  After Mrs Schroder died the members went their separate ways and no longer came together as a congregation.

For these reasons the court held that the Church ceased to exist on Mrs Schroder’s death and the money could only be applied cy-près if her will showed a ‘general charitable intention’ - such as gifts to other charities.  The Court decided that Mrs Schroder’s will did not show such an intention and therefore the gift failed. 

What’s it like today?
The building at Rookwood Road is now home to the Georgian Orthodox Church.  I visited during Sunday Mass.  The congregation were very welcoming and happy for me to take photos. 

Barbara Rich, who acted for Mrs Bultitude has some excellent photos of the church on Flickr. 

The building has a fascinating history, having been built for the Agappemonite sect, led by J H Smyth-Pigott, the "Clapton Messiah".  One of the best features of the building are the stained glass windows designed by Walter Crane, a contemporary of William Morris. This one has a pomegranate design: 
The church is Grade 2* listed, and you can read a detailed description of it on the English Heritage website.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Neville Estates v Madden [1962] Ch. 832

What’s the case about?
The trustees of Catford Synagogue wanted to sell surplus land they owned at the rear of their synagogue.  On March 3 1959 a developer offered to buy the land for £10,000; the trustees agreed and the conveyancing process began.  The developer applied for permission to build flats on the land, even though he hadn’t exchanged contracts with the trustees yet.

The trustees sought the Charity Commission’s permission to sell the land, thinking this would be a mere formality.  On 20 May 1959 the Charity Commission informed the trustees that they would permit a sale for £10,000 - provided that they first publish a notice inviting interested parties to make higher offers.

On 1 June the trustees and the developer exchanged contracts, with a planned completion date of 13 July.  A clause was inserted in the contract stating that the contract was subject to the consent of the Charity Commissioners, so far as it might be required.

On 28 June the developer obtained planning permission to build the flats.  The result of this was the land increased in value and the trustees received a number of higher offers from potential buyers. 

In the light of the higher offers, the Charity Commission informed the trustees that they would not permit the sale of the land for less than £14,300.  The developer refused to increase his offer and brought an action against the trustees to force them to complete the sale.

Where is it on the map?
At point T.

Who won?
The trustees of the synagogue ‘won’, insofar as they weren’t forced to complete the sale for £10,000.  However, as the judgment makes clear, the trustees had some sympathy with the developer whose own actions had increased the value of the land.  It appears that the trustees would have been happy to complete the sale for £10,000 if only the Charity Commissioners had let them! 

What’s the principle of law?
The case turned on whether the trust that owned the land was charitable – if it was, the Charity Commissioners had a duty to intervene and prevent a sale below the market value.  If the trust was non-charitable then the Charity Commission had no duty and could not prevent a sale.  

If the trust was charitable, it was because it was for a religious purpose.  But, trusts for a religious purpose must also have a public benefit if they are to enjoy charitable status.  The developer sought to rely on the case of Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426 to argue that because the synagogue was primarily for the benefit of Jews it did not provide any benefit for the public at large.

The judge, Cross J, disagreed with this argument.  He stated that even if the general public did not visit the synagogue, the members of the congregation, unlike the nuns in Gilmour v Coats, “lived in the world” and “mixed with their fellow citizens”.  The judge stressed that he was not classing one religion as more beneficial than another, but that some religion was likely to be better than none and therefore a religious organisation whose members mixed with the rest of society was capable of producing a public benefit.  Because of this, the judge held that the land was held by a charitable trust.

What’s it like today?

The synagogue is still on Crantock Road in Catford.  It is an orthodox synagogue and when I visited there were quite a few people milling around after the Shabbat morning service.  Orthodox Jews wouldn’t use a camera on Shabbat and for this reason I thought it would be disrespectful to take photos. However, there are a few photos on their website.

It's not clear whether the developer ending up paying the extra £4,300 to complete the sale.  But it does look like the flats were built - there are a number of low-rise flats and garages backing on to the synagogue (on Callender Road) which are similar to the proposed development described in the judgment.

The public benefit requirement for charitable religious trusts is still a very live issue.  The Plymouth Brethren have had a long running dispute with the Charity Commission about whether they should be treated as a charity.  There is plenty of coverage of this online, but for a fairly comprehensive selection, take a look at the Third Sector website.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426

What’s the case about?
Evelyn Coats and George Bellows set aside £500 to donate to charity.  Their preference was for the money to go to the Carmelite Priory in Notting Hill.  The Priory was (and still is) a closed order of nuns.  The law was unclear as to whether a closed religious order could be considered charitable.  In order to test the law, Coats and Bellows made a written declaration stating that the money should go to the Priory only if the organisation was found to be charitable.  If the Priory was found not to be a charitable organisation, the money would go to the Converts’ Aid Society instead.  Therefore, in order to ‘claim’ the £500, the Priory had to convince the court that it should be considered a charitable organisation.

Where is it on the map?
At point U.

Who won?
Nobody ‘won’ as such, but the court held that the Carmelite Priory was not a charitable organisation - and so the £500 went to the Converts’ Aid Society. 

What’s the principle of law?
Charitable gifts enjoy a number of advantages over non-charitable gifts, such as tax advantages.  The price for these advantages is that the courts (and the Charity Commission) will intervene to ensure that only gifts and organisations that are truly charitable receive these benefits.

It is possible for a religious organisation to be charitable, but the organisation must provide some benefit to the public, rather than just the members of the organisation.  In the present case, the Carmelite Priory was a closed order of nuns.  The nuns did not take part in any works outside of the convent, and neither could the public join them inside the convent.  

Counsel for the nuns stated that they provided a public benefit as they prayed for the world and provided an example of sacrifice and religious contemplation.  The court would not be drawn on whether the nuns’ prayers or their actions were of benefit to the public, but stated that they were ‘manifestly not susceptible of proof’.  In the absence of any provable benefits, the order could not be considered charitable.

What’s it like today?
The Priory is still there, on St Charles’ Square in Notting Hill.  It’s also still closed to the public.  The courtyard is accessible to the public but it is not possible to enter the main buildings, or the gardens (visible from Google Maps).   I went into the courtyard, and spoke to one of the nuns.  She was friendly and explained that it was OK to take photos of the courtyard, but that visitors could not enter any further.  

There is a plaque in memory of the Prioress, Mother Mary of Jesus, in the chapel porch.

One thing that has changed since Gilmour v Coats is that the Priory now has a website, where it is possible to contact the nuns with a prayer request, and see pictures of the private areas:

The nun I spoke to was very kind to let me take photos, but please note that this is a place of worship and is not open to the public.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Prudential Assurance v London Residuary Body and others [1992] 2 A.C. 386

What’s the case about?
In 1930, Mr Nathan sold some land with frontage onto Walworth Road (a major road in Southwark) to the London County Council.  The LCC wanted the land as part of a scheme to widen Walworth Road.  The LCC weren’t able to widen the road straight away, so they leased the land back to Mr Nathan at a rent of £30 per year. 

Mr Nathan and the LCC agreed that the tenancy would continue until “the said land is required by the Council for the purposes of the widening of Walworth Road”.  Until that time, Mr Nathan was permitted to erect “temporary one storey shops or buildings of one storey and for the retention of such shops or buildings as temporary structures", provided that he left the land clear for the Council as and when they needed it back.

The road widening scheme never happened, and in 1988 Mr Nathan’s successors in title were still paying £30 per year rent.  The open market rental value for the land had risen to £10,000 per year.  London County Council no longer existed and the land was owned by the London Residual Body, the organisation charged with disposing of the LCC’s assets.  The London Residual Body gave the tenant six months’ notice to end the tenancy. The tenant sought a declaration that the notice was void as the tenancy could only be terminated if the road was to be widened.

Where is it on the map?
At point E.

Who won?
The landlord – the London Residuary Body.  The House of Lords held that the 1930 agreement was void as it purported to create a lease of an uncertain length (it was impossible to know when, if ever, the road would be widened).  Instead, the Law Lords found that the parties had created a tenancy that ran from year to year, which could be terminated by either party giving six months’ notice.

What’s the principle of law?
Up until 1926 there were a variety of ways that a person could possess a legal estate (i.e. ownership) in land.  The Law of Property Act 1925 changed that.  It provided that there were only two possible ways that a legal estate could exist –as a freehold title, or as a term of years absolute (leasehold). 

A term of years absolute has to be for a fixed period of time, although it may roll over from one period to the next (an example of this is when people rent their homes on a month to month basis).  The agreement that Nathan and LCC had tried to create was not for a fixed period and therefore could not be enforced by the law.  By studying the characteristics of the arrangement between landlord and tenant, the Court decided that what they had actually created was a yearly tenancy. 

What’s it like today?
Walworth Road still hasn’t been widened, and there do not appear to be any plans to do so.   

Interestingly, the layout of Walworth Road still hints at the plans which now date back over 90 years: it is fronted by single storey shops which look like they were originally built as temporary structures.  

The premises at 263-265 Walworth Road, the subject of this case, is a prime example.  It does not quite match the neighbouring properties.  It is currently occupied by a beauty salon.