Warring neighbours have been warned away from resorting to the courts to sort out boundary disputes by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal was considering a ‘protracted boundary dispute’ between neighbours in the case of Cameron v Boggiano and Robertson  EWCA Civ 157. The dispute involved Devon Cameron, owner of a property in Choumert Mews in Peckham, south London and a small area of cobbled courtyard in front , and Angela Boggiano and Craig Robertson, the owners of a three-storey terraced property which back onto the courtyard.
Lord Justice Mummery said:
- ‘The parties have spent a lot of money, time and energy quarrelling about the ownership of a thin strip of land in a corner of the courtyard…’.
- ‘Suing and being sued by neighbours is a stressful and unpleasant experience. Bad feelings all round do not finish with the final judgment. The lawsuit could have unwanted long-term consequences that a sensible compromise might have avoided. One side “wins” at trial, and/or on appeal, but, in the long run, both sides lose if, for instance, litigation blight has damaged the prospects of selling up and moving elsewhere.’
- ‘The court would be failing in its duty if it did not draw on the extensive experience, which it has acquired impartially, to warn others that the only certainty in this kind of case is that the financial outlay is almost always more than the disputed property is worth. Financial factors do not seem to count for much when the parties are protecting what they believe belongs to them. The territorial imperative is the driver in boundary litigation. If the court’s warnings are ignored, there will one day be a final reckoning of the total expenditure and immeasurable human misery, and the hoary maxim “he that goes to law holds a wolf by the ears” will strike a chord.’
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award