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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Thursday 18 August 2016


You know about the microchipped cat Tigger who vanished in 2012.  Three weeks ago his Staffordshire owner Karen Young heard from the microchip database to which another lady had applied to be registered as Tigger's owner. Mrs Young could not extract details of the other lady from the database people because of data protection legislation. So Mrs Young had the police intervene and now Tigger is back with Mrs Young. The lady who handed him back insists that she bought Tigger in good faith in 2012.

Where do you stand legally when you lose your property or you have lent it out and whoever has it will not hand it back, be it an animal or a diamond ring? As a general rule, you have six years to sue in a civil court for its return. Those six years start from when it was picked up by someone else or from when it should have been returned to whoever you entrusted it. If you don't sue within the six years then you lose your ownership of the property. The fact that whoever now has the property acted in all innocence and even paid someone for the property is irrelevant. The court might be prepared to extend the six years where whoever has the property has concealed the fact that they have it.

But the position is different when the property has been actually stolen. Then the owner does not lose their ownership after six years and could sue the original thief and anyone who comes into possession of the property - whenever. Pin back you lugholes for the exception. It's when someone has purchased from the thief and acted in good faith. Then the purchaser can only be successfully sued within six years of their purchase.

In the case of Tigger, it is unlikely that the lady who returned him would have had any defence to a claim for his return by Mrs Young, despite her innocence in the affair, and she was prudent to have returned him.