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The relevance of context in property law: a case for judicial restraint?

Hopkins, N. (2011) The relevance of context in property law: a case for judicial restraint? Legal Studies: The Journal of the Society of Legal Scholars, 31 (2). pp. 175-198. ISSN 1748-121X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-121X.2010.00186.x


A distinction between the domestic and commercial context is commonly drawn in property law discourse and has been brought into focus by three recent House of Lords' decisions. The thesis of this paper is that while the distinction is a useful explanatory tool, it runs into difficulties when given legal effect by the courts. There is a definitional problem in understanding what is included within each context. Indeed, the distinction assumes the existence of a dichotomy when, in fact, the domestic and commercial spheres are better seen as a continuum. In Stack v Dowden, the majority of the House of Lords gave legal effect to context and considered that different rules should apply to determine ownership of the home. This paper locates its decision in the broader debate on judicial restraint and creativity. By analogy with current discussion of due deference in public law, it is suggested that, in light of the policy issues involved and the broader ramifications of the decision, insufficient justification was given for the approach adopted by the majority.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:33268

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