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Harris v Birkenhead [1976] 1 WLR 279 Court of Appeal

The claimant Julie Harris was 4 years old when she wandered off from a children’s play park with her friend. They entered a derelict house which was due for demolition. The house had not been secured and the door was open. They went upstairs and Julie sustained serious injury when she fell from a window. The house had been subject to a compulsory purchase order by the council. The house had been owned by a private landlord and the tenant was offered alternative accommodation by the council. The tenant informed the council that she did not want to take up the offer of accommodation and made her own arrangements and left the property. The council served 14 days notice on the owner of their intention to take possession of the property, but never actually took physical possession at the expiry of the 14 days.


The Council had the legal right to take possession to secure the property, actual physical occupation was not required to incur liability as an occupier. The council were therefore liable.
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