(iii) Recovery of Stolen Property

Where the claimant brings a restitutionary claim in respect of stolen property the claim is not subject to a six-year limitation period.52

(iv) Equitable Proprietary Claims

Most equitable proprietary claims are not subject to a limitation period under the 1980 Act and will only be barred by virtue of the doctrine of laches. But the 1980 Act does make specific provision for claims to recover trust property from anybody other than the trustee, such claims being subject to a limitation period of six years.[1] But there is no limitation period in respect of claims to recover trust property or the proceeds of trust property from a trustee.[2] This raises significant issues of characterization of trustees, since a trustee includes a constructive trustee,[3] and it therefore matters when a defendant can be characterized as such a trustee. Where a defendant holds property on constructive trust, this will be treated like an express trust, so that any claim to recover the property will not be time barred,[4] neither will any claim involving fraudulent breach of that trust.[5] Where the defendant has not been expressly appointed as a trustee, but has assumed the duties of one, the defendant is treated as a real trustee, albeit under a constructive trust, so a claim for the recovery of trust property would not be time barred. This includes a person who interferes with a trust as trustee de son tort or a fiduciary who misappropriates the property of the principal.[6] Where, however, the defendant is held liable for unconscionable receipt of property which has been transferred in breach of trust,[7] although the orthodox analysis has been that he or she is liable as if he or she was a constructive trustee, it has now been recognized that this is incorrect. The liability of the unconscionable recipient is simply a personal liability to account such that he or she does not hold any property on trust. Consequently, the normal six-year limitation period applies in respect of such claims.[8]

Claims to the personal estate of a deceased person are barred after 12 years from the date on which the right to receive the share or interest accrued,[9] though no limitation period applies where the trustee was fraudulent.[10]

  • [1] Ibid, s 21(3). 54 Ibid, s 21(1)(b). 55 Trustee Act 1925, s 68(7).
  • [2] 56 By virtue of the Limitation Act 1980, s 21(1)(b). See James v Williams [2000] Ch 1.
  • [3] 57 Limitation Act 1980, s 21(1)(a). See p 739, above.
  • [4] 58 As recognized by Jonathan Parker J in BCCI (overseas) v Jan (unreported), 11 November 1999; James v
  • [5] Williams [2000] Ch 1. 59 See p 645, above.
  • [6] 60 Williams v Central Bank of Nigeria [2014] UKSC 10, [2014] 1 AC 1189.
  • [7] 61 Limitation Act 1980, s 22(a). See Re Diplock [1948] Ch 465.
  • [8] 62 Limitation Act 1980, s 21(1)(a). This provision will be applicable even where the trustee is not thedefendant: Baker Ltd v Medway Building and Supplies Ltd [1958] 1 WLR 1216.
  • [9] 63 See generally G Watt, ‘Laches, Estoppel and Election’ in PBH Birks and A Pretto (eds), Breach of Trust
  • [10] (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2002), 353.
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