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what exactly does 'possession is nine tenths of the law' mean?

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71silverfox | 02:23 Tue 24th Oct 2006 | Law
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what exactly does 'possession is nine tenths of the law' mean? and why does it not apply to shoplifters?


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One site ( says: It merely serves to make a point that one who has physical control of his property is clearly at an advantage should his rightful ownership of the property ever be subject to challenge.

The old saying that �possession is nine tenths of the law� is said to be a precept from old English Common Law (but other sources claim it is much older). As you might imagine, the adage relates to a property owner�s ability to possess, use and dispose of property as he saw fit.
It is relative to one person telling another person who he can and cannot utilize his property, rather than a disputed ownership.

Secondly, the aphorism that "possession is nine-tenths of the law" is not a law at all, but a logical rule of force that has been recognized for ages. In other words, it does not requires a law degree to know that a person who can prove himself the owner of property to anassurance of nine-tenths probability is clearly at an advantage over
someone who cannot. The rule here is (or �was� perhaps, back when the world was probably a bit more honest than it is today) that in many cases physical possession alone establishes this measure of rightful ownership and legal control outside of court (Though we know is in this day and age that the rule doesn�t always hold true, don�t we? This in itself proves the adage is not an actual law, but a rule of thumb.)

In civil law consider�s definition of �possession�. It has very little to do with OWNERSHIP at all:

The phrase �possession is nine-tenths of the law� does not imply that any person who holds any property is the rightful owner. To the contrary�what it does imply is that any person who is in possession of his RIGHTFULLY OWNED PROPERTY is the sole controller of that property
and may do whatsoever he wishes without regard to what any one else
The phrase is a corruption of "possesion is nine points of the law".
One person ( person A) asks another ( person B) if they can store their item or items in a facility ( not a storage unit) a unit that someone else stores things in. A few month's goes by and person A wants their items or items back and owes person B money. Legally what can happen? This is a true and yes very complicated situation that is even a little more complicated then explained. Basically Can person A say that person B has stolen property? Thank you

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