Sir George was in the House of Lords to hear the outcome of the appeal in Bakewell Management Ltd v Brandwood and others, where Brandwood and others were residents of Newton Common. They were seeking to overturn a Court of Appeal decision that upheld the right of Bakewell Management to charge residents up to 2% of the value of their homes for the right to drive across the common to their front door - a right they had enjoyed unchallenged for decades.
The Lords of Appeal upheld the appeal unanimously - 5-0 - and awarded costs against the respondent (Bakewell Management)
"I am delighted that my constituents have won, and congratulate them on pursuing this case right through to the House of Lords. Justice has prevailed in the end. It was quite wrong that Bakewell Management were able to extract - and threaten to extract - large sums of money from my constituents for a right they had enjoyed unchallenged for years. I am delighted that this absurd loophole has been closed and know what a relief it will be - not just to residents in Newtown Common - but right across England and Wales."
The residents lost in the lower courts because it was found that they could not acquire a prescriptive right to drive across someone else's land if, in so doing, they committed a criminal offence. Since 1928, it had become a criminal offence to drive across a common without the owner's consent. Therefore no prescriptive right was acquired, and the owner was entitled to make a charge. This was established in Hanning v Topdeck in 1993.
Having read the judgement, the reason why the Lords of Appeal decided in favour of the residents was basically because the owner of the common could have granted them consent. The criminal act they committed was therefore of a different type to other criminal acts, in that it was capable of being legitimised. For this reason, it was possible for a prescriptive right to have been acquired - not least because at no point did the owner object to what was happening."