The High Court has delivered judgment on the latest aspect of a property dispute involving Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, ruling that Clarkson's case has expired and cannot be pursued. This is the latest stage of continuing litigation regarding a public right of way dispute over a coastal area in the south of the island where Clarkson owns a property.


Clarkson and his wife originally brought a petition to the High Court in February 2009 seeking various declarations in respect of their land and property at Langness, including a declaration that no right of way existed over the property, or alternatively, a declaration as to the nature and precise extent of such right.

The Clarksons' petition was stayed in July 2009 pending the outcome of a public inquiry into rights of way over the Langness property. After the inquiry had been conducted, the inspector concluded that certain parts of the Langness area could be deemed to be public rights of way under Section 88 of the 1986 Highways Act of Tynwald. In May 2010 the Department of Infrastructure gave notice of its intention to amend the definitive map of the Isle of Man to include such public rights as had been found to exist in the public inquiry report. The Clarksons lodged an objection to the department's proposal.

Accordingly, the department applied to the High Court in September 2010 for statutory permission to amend the definitive map in relation to Langness. At a hearing held in March 2011, Deemster Doyle adjudged that the findings of fact contained in the public inquiry report should be treated as evidence, that the findings could be treated as conclusive and that it was not appropriate at that type of hearing for the court to hear objections to the granting of leave on the basis of grounds which should properly have been pursued as a 'doleance' claim. A petition of doleance is an ancient Manx remedy akin to a judicial review of administrative action in the United Kingdom.

The Clarksons then applied for permission to file a petition of doleance out of time – an application which was again heard by Deemster Doyle.


By a judgment dated September 30 2011, Deemster Doyle refused to grant the Clarksons permission to file the doleance claim out of time. In his reasoning, Deemster Doyle stated that he had not been persuaded that there was any good reason for the delay in filing the doleance claim and that there were no matters of general public importance raised on the face of the claim. Deemster Doyle commented:

"I do not say that rights of way at Langness have not received attention from Attorneys General, the media, Tynwald and the courts. Anyone who reads the newspapers, listens to the radio or looks at internet news sites will know that the matter has received the attention of the media. No doubt the identity and media profile of one of the Respondents has added to the interest of media. Despite the media profile of this case we need to keep matters in perspective when considering whether the issues raised in the doleance claim are issues of 'general public importance'. Important as the media are in a democratic society, simply because a matter has received the attention of the media does not automatically mean that the matter is a matter of 'general public importance'. The media covers many matters that are not of general public importance."

He cited Rule 14.23 of the 2009 High Court Rules, which states that a doleance claim must be filed promptly and in any event no later than three months after the grounds to make the claim first arose. Deemster Doyle stated that the doleance claim in this case should have been filed promptly and in any event no later than three months after May 11 2010 (the date when notice of the proposed change to the map was given). It was filed late on June 14 2011, although an application for leave to file the doleance claim out of time was filed on April 12 2011, together with a draft doleance claim.

The court, therefore, did not extend the time for the filing of the doleance claim and the application for such permission was dismissed. It remains to be seen what road may now be taken in this long-running right of way dispute.

For further information on this topic please contact John T Aycock at M&P Legal by telephone (+44 1624 695800), fax (+44 1624 695801) or email ([email protected]).