SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
CIVIL SUIT NO. 433 OF 2000
STEPHANIE SEALES BY HER ATTORNEY ON RECORD EWART KING
Mr. Cecil A. Williams for the complainant
Mr. Parnell R. Campbell and Mrs. Cheryl McSheen-Bailey for the defendant
2001: November 6, 28.
 The claimant’s claim is for damages for trespass to a portion of land at Choppins,
St. Vincent, admeasuring 7,362 square feet, by wrongful entry thereon in June
1999, by cutting down a coconut tree, by planting coconut trees, and by placing
building materials on the land preparatory to constructing a building thereon.
 The defence filed denies all the substantive allegations of the plaintiff, but the
defendant goes on to plead that there has from about 1968 been a thatched house
erected on the disputed land, which was occupied as a dwelling by Stephen
Sutherland, the defendant’s uncle.
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 The defendant alleges in his defence that in about 1964 his grandmother Naomi
Woods rented the land from Berry Goodluck, and in about 1968 Sutherland,
Woods’ son, erected the thatched house on the land and commenced living there
and working the land, and has continued to do so up to the present time. He
alleges further that in about 1971 Woods erected a wooden dwelling house on the
land, and lived there with members of her family, including the defendant, until she
died. The house was moved off the land in 1995. He pleads that the complainant
never lived on the land or occupied it.
 The defendant further pleads that before the house was moved off the land in
1995, he had gathered a quantity of lumber with the intention of building a wooden
house for himself on the land. He built a wooden foundation frame near the spot
formerly occupied by Woods’ house, and continued to make brooms on the land.
 The defendant claims that the coconut trees were all planted by Sutherland, and
he admits cutting down one of them which, he says, was dangerously overhanging
telephone lines. He asserts that neither he nor Sutherland ever paid rent for
occupation of the land, and claims that he and Sutherland have been in actual
physical possession of the land at all material times.
 By way of counterclaim the defendant claims that the complainant’s possessory
title “taken out by Deed Number 587 of 2000” is defective in that the complainant
was never in physical possession of the land. In consequence, he claims a
declaration that the complainant does not have any right in or title to the land, an
order that the said deed be cancelled, and an injunction to restrain the
complainant from interfering with his occupation of the land.
 In the defence to counterclaim the complainant says that the thatched house was
built not in 1968, but in 1972, and was never used as a dwelling house. She also
denies that Woods rented the land in 1964, and says the land belonged to her
uncle James Ashton, in whose name she paid land taxes. She denies that
Stephen Sutherland moved onto the land in 1968, erected a thatched house
thereon, and began to work the land.
 The complainant asserts that she rented the land to Rosita Woods, not Naomi
Woods, in or about 1972, at a rent of $9.00 annually, later increased to $12.00.
She says the thatched house was built after 1972 by her tenant Rosita Woods,
who had rented the land to build a wooden house on it. When, in 1995, Rosita
Woods’ daughter built a second wooden house on the land the complainant gave
her notice to quit.
 The complainant claims to have been in possession of the land since 1964, and
rented the same to Rosita Woods from 1972 to 1995, when Rosita Woods quit as
a result of having been given notice to quit. She says the wooden frame and
lumber were placed on the land only in 1999.
 The defendant did not, either in his defence or in evidence, make any claim to title
to the land, but contented himself with the plea that the complainant herself had no
title to the land, and therefore had no locus standi on the basis of which to seek a
remedy against him, an admitted trespasser.
 Trespass is actionable at the suit of a person in possession. Possession is
evidenced by a wide variety of acts, depending on the type of land, and “In the
case of vacant and unenclosed land which is not being cultivated there is little
which can be done on the land to indicate possession”. Renting land to a tenant is
evidence of possession; Clerk & Lindsell on Torts fourteenth edition paragraph
 Clerk & Lindsell in the same paragraph goes on to say that
“proof of ownership is prima facie proof of possession, unless there is
evidence that another person is in possession; but if there is a dispute as
to which of two persons is in possession, the presumption is that the
person having a title to the land is in possession. And even a long
continued assertion of title, without proof of title, can be of significance ‘in
that it attaches to the activities of those claiming under it a quality of acts
of possession’ ….”
 In paragraph 1320 the learned author says
“A person claiming possession against the true owner cannot be said to
have possession unless the true owner has been dispossessed.”
 Contrary to what appears to be presumed by the counterclaim, possessory title is
not acquired, or “taken out”, by means of a statutory declaration registered as a
deed, but, as illustrated by the judgment of Floissac C.J. in Davis & Davis v
Charles & Ors. Civil Appeal No. 20 of 1998, Antigua & Barbuda,
“whether during the fifteen year period (or whatever may be the relevant
period) Charles performed unequivocal acts of ownership and adverse
possession by virtue of which he had acquired a possessory title to the
The registered statutory declaration is no more than a solemn declaration on oath,
but a self-serving declaration, in support of the claim to have been “in actual and
uninterrupted possession …. In my own right”, and is therefore of little value in
circumstances such as apply in this case. Indeed viva voce evidence of acts of
possession, given at trial, subjected to testing by cross examination, is of far
greater value in proving title.
 The case proceeded on the basis of filed witness statements treated as evidence
in chief, the witnesses being cross-examined. The evidence of the claimant and
his witnesses is that the land in question belonged to her great uncle James
Ashton, whose only sibling was the claimant’s grandmother Alice Ashton
deceased. Alice Ashton, who died in 1946, was survived by her two children
Miriam King, the claimant’s mother, and Emily James. James Ashton was
survived by his widow Alma Ashton, who died in or about 1988. The couple had
one child, a daughter, Isaline Ashton, who predeceased her mother, leaving no
 The claimant paid land taxes on the land, in the name of James Ashton, from
1964, from which time she claims to have taken possession of the land. However,
it is clear to me that in so doing she was acting for and on behalf of her uncle’s
widow Alma Ashton, and continued to do so until the death of Alma in or about
 Alma Ashton lived on the subject land until the late 1950’s to early 1960’s, when
she moved to live elsewhere. The land remained largely unoccupied until the late
1960’s or early 1970’s, when the claimant rented the land to Rosita Woods, who
built a wooden house and wattle and daub outhouse kitchen on the land. Rosita
Woods paid rent at the rate of $9.00 per annum, later raised to $12.00, which
money was given, without deduction, to Alma Ashton. Elvina Horne and her
mother Louisa Horne at times acted as agent to collect the rent or to deliver it to
Alma Ashton. In all this I am satisfied that Alma Ashton was recognised as owner
and the only person entitled to possession as such of the land.
 When Alma Ashton died in or about 1988, the claimant claims that she was the
only surviving relative of the late James Ashton, and that his widow Alma Ashton
had died without surviving relatives. In those circumstances, the claimant claims
to be the only person entitled to the land formerly of the late James Ashton, i.e. the
 Section 62 of the Administration of Estates Act CAP. 377 of the Laws of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines provides for intestate succession, and section 62(a),
read together with section 62(e), would have given the claimant’s grandmother, as
the only sibling of James Ashton, an interest in his estate if he had died with no
issue. However the claimant’s evidence suggests that at his death James Ashton
was survived by his wife and a daughter, who has since died, and whose interest,
under section 62(d), would have devolved upon her mother, Alma Ashton, who
thereupon would have become entitled to the entire beneficial interest in the estate
of her late husband.
 The claimant thus had no legal or equitable title to the said land at that time.
Nevertheless I accept the evidence that she asserted title, by continuing to rent the
land to Rosita Woods in the character of owner of the land, to collect the rent in
said character, and to use and dispose of same as owner, without accounting to,
or holding herself accountable to anyone in respect thereof.
 I accept that when in 1995 the claimant became aware that a second house was
being placed on the land without her consent and contrary to her wishes, she sent
the tenant, Rosita Woods, notice to quit, and Rosita Woods did in fact quit,
removing the two wooden houses and leaving on the land only the wattle and
daub outhouse, which was dilapidated and in any event could not by its nature be
moved from one site to another. The land thereupon became vacant and
possession fell into the hands of the claimant, notwithstanding that she did not
physically enter upon the land.
 The claimant is entitled to claim on the basis of a “long continued assertion of title”,
even without proof of title, that her activities in relation to the land are acts of
possession on which she is entitled to rely in setting up a claim to title on the basis
of long possession.
 I find on the evidence that the claimant has proved that she has been in
continuous, uninterrupted and undisputed possession of the land as owner
thereof, adverse to any other claimant to title, since the death of Alma Ashton in
 I have already indicated that I find that the defendant has no title to the land, and
indeed asserts no title, and his entry on the land is an act of trespass actionable at
the suit of the claimant.
 The claimant is entitled to judgment on the claim, and it is ordered as follows:
(i) That the defendant forthwith remove all building materials from
the said land.
(ii) That the defendant be restrained, and is hereby restrained from
entering upon the said land save at times agreed upon by the
claimant for the purpose of complying with the above order.
(iii) That the defendant pay the complainant damages for trespass in
the sum of $1000.00.
(iv) The defendant’s counterclaim is dismissed.
(v) The defendant is to pay the costs of the claim and counterclaim,
to be agreed or assessed.
Brian G.K. Alleyne
High Court Judge
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