Public Place, Private land: ‘a wholly artificial’ distinction

The Supreme Court recently refused permission to appeal in a Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) case arising out of an incident that occurred on private land.

By way of background, in June 2013 Mr Lewis (67) and others were walking on private land in Lincolnshire.  A local farmer, Mr Tindale, took exception to this, assuming erroneously that they were up to no good. He chased them in a 4×4, which was not insured.  This included driving on a public road then a public footpath, through a barbed wire fence and into a field where he collided with Mr Lewis, causing him life-changing injuries.  Mr Tindal was charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent but was acquitted at trial.

In the related civil action, the MIB did not dispute Mr Tindal’s liability but contended that, as the injury had occurred on private land rather than ‘a public place’, it fell beyond their statutory remit.   This was not accepted by the trial judge who found for Mr Lewis.

On Appeal, Lord Justice Flaux held that:

The suggested distinction between the use of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place and the use of a motor vehicle on private land is, at least on the facts of the present case, a wholly artificial one.

The MIB petitioned the Supreme Court on this point but permission to appeal was refused last week with the Justices stating that the appeal did not raise an arguable point of law and declining a request to refer the case for any ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

This may not, however, be the end of the story.  The legislation in question is derived from an EU Directive requiring Member States to have in place MIB-type provisions.  Post-Brexit, the UK would be at liberty to amend or even repeal the domestic legislation as it sees fit.  Watch this space…

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Mib V Lewis

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