J A Pye (Oxford) Ltd v Graham
Pye allowed his neighbours the Grahams to use 23 hectares of land he owned, valued at 10 million pounds sterling, under a grazing agreement. The document expressly stated that the agreement would end on the 31 December 1983 and that to continue the arrangement a new contract would need to be entered into. Pye did not enter into another agreement because he wanted to develop the land but the Grahams continued to occupy the land. After 12 years the Grahams sought to obtain it under the English law of adverse possession.
In the High Court Neuberger J ruled that under the Land Registration Act 1925 the Grahams were the lawful owners of the land as Pye had failed to take possession of this land.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal overturned the ruling of the High Court and held that the Grahams were only using the land because of the grazing agreement, thus they hadn't been in possession of it.
House of Lords
The House of Lords rejected the Court of Appeals decision and restored the decision of Neuberger J.
This was one of the last cases to be decided before the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force, which required that any land acquired through adverse possession had to be registered using the Land Registry. As such a registration would result in the original owner being informed this would allow them to object to such possession. The effect is to make it far more difficult to acquire registered land through squatting.
European Court of Human Rights
The case was litigated as J. A. Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Another v United Kingdom in the European Court of Human Rights. The ECtHR originally ruled that obtaining property via adverse possession was contrary to Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions). On appeal, the Grand Chamber subsequently held that although there was an interference with Convention rights, it was a proportionate and thus permissible interference; see J. A. Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Another v United Kingdom (2007) 46 EHRR 1083. English law on adverse possession is therefore human-rights compliant.