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Boat club accused of occupying land it has no legal claim on

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An aerial image of Spanish Point, with Peter Tucker’s Bay in centre. (Image from Google Earth)

A family yesterday accused a neighbouring landowner of taking a slice of their property – now owned by the Spanish Point Boat Club – at the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses.

Brittany Robinson said her great-grandfather, Heman Smith, bought a piece of waterfront property with a small beach on Place’s Point Road, Pembroke, from his aunt in 1946.

But he lost the waterfront portion of the land in a Supreme Court legal battle against his neighbour Amelia Chiappa less than two years later.

Ms Robinson alleged that “misleading” documents and potential judicial bias tainted the case, and asked for the land to be returned to her family.

She said: “It has a beach attached to it so, being the Spanish Point Boat Club, that was one of the reasons they fought so hard for that area.

“It adds value to their land, but at the same time this has depreciated the value of our property by blocking the beach front access.”

Ms Robinson told the commission the borders of the land – south of the boat club on the edge of Peter Tucker’s Bay – were laid out in a 1888 deed of gift to William Brown.

The property was later passed down from William Brown to his widow, Anne and later to Adelia Robinson, who paid land tax for the property.

Adelia Robinson sold the land to Mr Smith, her nephew, for £400 in June 1946.

But in February 1947 a legal action was launched against Mr Smith by Ms Chiappa to recover a portion of the land, along with £150 in damages because he had dumped soil on it.

Ms Chiappa claimed the western section of the land was owned by her and that Mr Smith had wrongfully claimed ownership.

The case appeared in the courts in 1947 and continued until 1948, when a jury found in favour of Ms Chiappa.

But Ms Robinson said Ms Chiappa’s statement of claim and her actual title were different.

She claimed the title said the land stopped at the bay, but Ms Chiappa said it reached the bay and a neighbouring property.

She also argued the records showed a “lineage” of ownership over more than 20 years without dispute, which would have been enough to prove adverse possession of the land.

Ms Robinson said the judge in the case – Rupert Hallett – had earlier worked for Ms Chiappa as a lawyer in connection with the same property and should have stood down from the hearing.

She said her great-grandfather had urged his lawyer, ET Richards, to object to Mr Hallett as judge.

But the lawyer did not do so when the judge raised the matter in court.

She read the Commission an unsigned letter about the legal dispute, believed to have been written by her great-grandfather, which said he did not feel justice had been done.

He said in the letter he wanted to appeal the case in England, but Mr Richards told him an appeal would cost more than £300.

Ms Robinson said that a shed had been built on the disputed land between the Robinson family home and the beach, as well as a fence.

Gina Robinson, Ms Robinson’s mother, said: “As long as my grandfather was alive, he would pull the fencing down.

“When my grandfather passed they put the fencing back up. We were not allowed to go through that area and we used to swim instead from my uncle’s property, which is two houses up from where we stay.”

She added that the fence was torn down by a hurricane, and the boat club attempted to put up new fencing, but were denied planning permission.

The commission said notices would be sent to the Spanish Point Boat Club and the estates of both Mr Hallett and Mr Richards to give them the chance to respond to the claims.

A view of Spanish Point with an arrow pointing to a building erected on the disputed property.

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Published January 19, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 18, 2021 at 9:06 pm)

Boat club accused of occupying land it has no legal claim on

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