Judge declares laws for co-habiting unfair

In a case last week, Lord Justice Toulson remarked that property laws relating to those co-habiting offered little legal protection to non-married couples whose relationships break down.

He referred to a report that was published by the Law Commission in 2007 that recommended current property laws be reformed to give those in cohabiting relationships the same rights as married couples.

No changes have been forthcoming since this report and Lord Justice Toulson’s comments came after hearing the case of Pamela Curran.

Pamela Curran, 55, said she had been “stripped of everything” after splitting from her partner of more than 30 years.

Miss Curran had been with Brian Collins, 52, since the late 1970s and worked with him at his kennels and cattery business.

After their relationship ended in 2010, a county court judge ruled that she had no right to a share in the business or the home where they had lived together, effectively leaving her penniless.

Lord Justice Toulson said: "Sadly, the appellant found herself in the classic position of a woman jilted in her early 50s, having very much made her life with the respondent for over 30 years.”

“The law of property can be harsh on people, usually women, in that situation. Bluntly, the law remains unfair to people in the appellant’s position, but the judge was constrained to apply the law as it is."

The Court of Appeal heard that Mr Collins and Miss Curran had begun dating when they were both still teenagers and had remained together until their split in 2010.

They lived and worked together at The Haven, a kennels and cattery business near Ashford, Kent, which was bought in Mr Collins’s name in 2007.

Miss Curran said she had trusted that if they ever split up, she would be given a fair share of the property and business, purchased for a combined total of £750,000.

Lord Judge Toulson said: "Judges ought not to be affected by human sympathies, they must apply the law as they see it. It was extremely difficult not to be affected by a sense that the appellant has, in truth, been treated unfairly.

"She describes herself as a nobody, but with a profound sense that what’s happened was not just.”

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