Trespass in law covers a wide spectrum of instances, such as trespass to land, goods, person or even criminal trespass. Today, however, we will focus solely on trespass to land.
What constitutes trespass to land in law?
So what constitutes trespass to land? Trespass to land occurs when a person (‘person A’) who neither has a legal right or permission enters into a land which belongs to another person (‘person B’) or when person A deprive person B of enjoying the use of his land according to person’s B whims and fancies. A quick glance will tell you that there are two forms of trespass to land. There is, however, no distinction between the two when it comes to filing a claim for trespass to land in court.
For knowledge sake, the first one is a physical one i.e. whereby person A has to personally be on person B’s land and person B does not know about it or where person B is aware of person A’s presence and objects to person A’s presence on his land. For the second form of trespass, person A’s do not need to be physically present on person B’s land- so as long as person A interferes with how person B uses his own land or deprive person B of how person B wishes to use his own land, he can be found liable for trespassing.
Example of trespassing
In Segar Restu (M) Sdn Bhd v Wong Kai Chuan & Anor, Wong Kai Chuan and the rest of the defendants unlawfully erected a bungalow and a factory on a piece of land that belonged to Segar Restu (they even planted 56 durian trees on it!). Segar Restu applied for summary judgment against them and the court allowed the application, stating that based on the facts of the case, Wong Kai Chuan and the rest of the defendants had no excuse to justify their action and was clearly committing a trespass onto Segar Restu’s land.
In Wong See Kui v Hong Hin Tin Mining Co, Wong See Kui was granted a temporary occupation license to operate a fish pond on a piece of land. The defendant, Hong Hin Tin Mining, was concurrently granted a mining license on a nearby piece of land and one of the conditions of the license was that the tailings from the land should be dump through/ on Wong See Kui’s land. Wong See Kui sued for trespass, claiming that Hong Hin Tin Mining had committed trespass when they dump the tailing onto his land, preventing him from enjoying the use of his land (i.e. growing fishes for commercial purposes). While the court held that on face value the act of dumping the tailings is considered a trespass, the court’s hand is nonetheless tied as Hong Hin Tin Mining was also granted a concurrent use to Wong See Kui’s land by the Mining Department (the court, however, pointed out that Wong See Kui can sue for damages under the Mining Enactment).
In Tenaga Nasional Bhd v Bukit Lenang Development Sdn Bhd, Bukit Lenang sued TNB for trespassing when they install electric poles and meters for the squatters in their land. TNB argued that they are obligated to do so under the Electricity Supply Act. The court held in favour of Bukit Lenang, argued that TNB is only obligated to supply electricity to lawful occupants of the land.
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